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Managing Expectations
By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

The art and science behind making commitments and managing expectations has always been a critical skill set for senior executives and entrepreneurs to master.

The art and science behind making commitments and managing expectations has always been a critical skill set for senior executives and entrepreneurs to master. In fact, understanding how to come out on the right-side of the expectation curve can often be the difference between average performers and superstars. This is evidenced by the fact that the consulting industry has zeroed in on the importance of this issue such that it has evolved into an emerging discipline known as "Promise Management". In this article I'll discuss the value of promise management as a discipline.

Nothing engenders confidence and creates a trust bond like delivering on promises   made and likewise few things erode confidence and credibility like commitments   not kept. In a previous post entitled: "Follow Through" I discussed   the importance of saying what you mean, meaning what you say and doing what   you say you'll do. The science of promise management is systematically connecting   what is said with what is done. The art of promise management is closing, or   better yet, eliminating the expectation gap. Blend the art and science together   and you have the framework for what is becoming the differentiating factor in   performance based decisioning for the twenty-first century.

Conflicts, disagreements, disputes and litigation are often born out of expectation   gaps. Expectations cut both ways?-Keeping what you perceive as being your end   of the bargain is only half of the equation as what you think only matters if   it is in alignment with the understanding of the other party. We have all found   ourselves in the unenviable position of assigning work product only to end-up   with the deliverable falling far short of expectations while having the producer   of said work product thinking they exceeded all expectations.

Expectations exist throughout the entire value chain with every stakeholder   needing and deserving to have their expectations managed and met. Whether it   is managing customer expectations, shareholder or analyst expectations, or the   inverse of employees having to deal with the expectations of executives, it   is the ability to excel at decisioning based upon managing expectations that   creates high performance organizations.

Promises that are made based upon solid reasoning and underlying business logic   that are consistently kept will help to create a solid brand attracting loyal   customers and talented employees. The following three practices will help create   an organization that delivers on its commitments:

1.Collaborate early and often: Decisioning in a vacuum or   without all the facts will place you in a deficit from the beginning. It is   at best extremely difficult to manage expectations and deliver on commitments   made if you don't have clear visibility as to what is wanted or needed. Before   making promises or commitments collaborate with all concerned parties to insure   that expectations are understood.

2.Resist making verbal commitments: Most misunderstandings   occur as a result of improper interpretation of oral communications. Most broken   commitments result from impulsive verbal promises made before all the details   were sorted out. Once you have gained clarity as to the perceived need to be   fulfilled place your understanding of the deliverables in writing by outlining   key business points and circulate the document for review and comments. Where   possible resist formalizing agreements, proposals, or other commitments until   you have alignment on key expectations and deliverables.

3.Manages promises like projects: Build a culture that breaks   down all commitments made into deliverables, benchmarks and deadlines. Allocate   resources, budget and staff while managing the commitment within a framework   of measured accountability. Treating all commitments and promises as formal   projects will help manage performance risk and will also create continuity of   process and delivery.

Performance based decisioning based upon principles of promise management will   lead to a certainty of execution that should translate into one of your company's   greatest competitive advantages.

Mike Myatt serves as the Managing Director and Chief Strategy Officer at N2growth, the leading venture growth consultancy in the US. He is also the author and moderator of the N2growth Blog. You can reach Mr. Myatt by Phone: 800-944-GoN2 (4662);  E-Mail: ; or Online:

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