Setting Clear Expectations Within Your Project Team


Direction Arrow. Courtesy Karim D. Ghantous

For project managers, setting clear expectations within your team can help to avoid any misunderstandings, errors in judgment, and poor overall project performance. The best way to do this, is early and often. 

Requiring clear, consistent, and timely communication, project managers need to be detailed, persistent, and relay vital information to the collective members of their teams at every turn of their projects. This repeated communication ensures that expectations are received, internalized, and understood by others. Missing or miscommunicated details can lead to targets slipping or being missed, budget overruns, lost of valuable time and ground, and escalating frustration as what was expected to be delivered was not, and teammates not understanding what was required of them. 

So how do you go about setting and managing these expectations?

From day one, be very clear about what is expected from every member of the team, including key stakeholders, functional managers, and clients. This can be supported through a clearly defined structure which define the vision for, aims, objectives, boundaries, results, and expected outcomes for the project. Essential at the beginning, Kick-Off Meetings help to ensure that every team member understands this structure and is on the same page as to what needs to be accomplished. These also provide a critical platform for discussing and understanding all of the key documents, processes, scopes of work, timelines, requirements, risks, deliverables, and assumptions which will underpin the success of the project.

Next, it is imperative to assign the required project roles and responsibilities for every task, as they may often overlap, depend on others, and be wide in scope. Ensure that those assigned are aligned with the structure of the project, meet the demands of the role, understand what is required or expected of them, and maintain the established standards and channels for communication, delivery, and performance. Encourage individuals to clarify any assumptions or misunderstanding by asking questions and providing feedback, not only at the onset of the project, but throughout. This helps to build trust and relationship throughout your team.

Finally, hold regular team, stakeholder, and client meetings. They help to ensure that the expectations established in the beginning are consistently reviewed and reaffirmed as you progress through the project. These meetings allow everyone to reorganize their priorities, demonstrate accountability for assigned tasks and responsibilities, resources to redeployed as required, and issues about work, process, and budgets to be openly and honestly discussed. Above all, these meetings serve to keep communication lines and channels, alive and well maintained. 

So, start with the clear expectations. Welcome input, questions, and clarification. Follow up with your team by remaining communicative, engaged, and managing the project's outcomes. Do not try to micromanage how the work gets done. Instead, seek to also provide support and guidance to your team where possible as it promotes higher levels of empowerment, motivation, and innovation. Assist finally, in removing obstacles and challenges for your team, finding the resources required, and uncovering project related specificities.