From Management’s Point of View ~ Alignment of Expectations ~ by Dai Takano, CEO
October 8, 2021
There are very few projects in the world with unlimited budgets; almost every project must be undertaken subject to specific budget constraints. Budgeting may sound like a dry topic, but it actually represents the fact that our clients are devoting a portion of their hard-earned funds to the purchase of our services. While providing the best service possible is our ultimate goal, there will be unavoidable differences in the results of a project, for example, where we can spend 500 hours as opposed to 400 hours.
In a case where the best results require 500 hours, but only 400 hours can be assigned, there would be two options to choose from. The first would be to explain in detail why 500 hours are necessary and obtain the client’s agreement to make the larger purchase. The other would be to modify the task content, i.e., simplify by eliminating the portions deemed unessential, thereby proposing the best possible alternative. Either way, we would need to arrive at a clear understanding with the client as to the exact nature of their expectations, as well as what exactly we would be able to accomplish.
Essentially, the alignment of expectations means examining the following three elements:
1. Defining the project
* Clarifying project objectives and significance
* Clarifying project deliverables
2. Establishing project milestones
* Setting deadlines for each milestone
* Deploying resources in accordance with the project’s level of difficulty
3. Delineating the required expenses
* In cases where the best results cannot be achieved within the cost constraints, presenting alternative proposal(s)
As professionals, it is essential at the outset that we achieve precise alignment of the client’s understanding with the outline of what we are to provide. Even with this initial cognitive alignment, however, gradual deviation can occur as the work progresses. In such instances, the client must be contacted in a timely manner, the reason(s) for the deviation clearly communicated, and the optimal way forward presented according to the situation at hand. A true professional is able to do this in real time.
The thing that must be kept front of mind while aligning expectations is that “We must project our abilities into the future.” If you only accept jobs that you know you can execute perfectly, your personal growth will be slower. In this age of rapid change, your rivals may soon far surpass you if you are moving slowly. It is better to continually aim higher than you can currently achieve. Don’t be satisfied with the mere alignment of expectations; always strive to exceed those expectations even by a small margin. I would say that it is only by means of such relentless efforts that people can continue to advance.
As I have risen higher in the organization, I have become less able to keep tabs on everything that is going on, and I confess that I am sometimes jolted to find that we have failed to meet a client’s expectations. It is, of course, discouraging whenever this happens. Nevertheless, as a top leader, the only course of action is to continue to impress upon our staff what it means to be a professional, to strive to be an example, and to keep moving forward and upward even in the face of the occasional failure.