Managing expectations

Low expectations are the secret to satisfaction, if not happiness

At some point in every IT professional's career, he realizes that the secret to having happy customers is not fulfilling their every wish and desire but keeping their expectations reasonable. Low expectations are the secret to satisfaction, if not happiness.

For many of us, this epiphany is accompanied by a harking back to the original Star Trek series, in which Scotty, the ship's chief engineer, constantly underpromises and overdelivers. In every engineering crisis, he seemed to declare some deliverable impossible because of the constraints of time, resources or physics, only to deliver it immediately following the intervening commercials.

Although Scotty was great at managing expectations about the deliverables of his work, I don't remember him managing expectations more broadly.

And so it is with us in IT. Our insights into the importance of managing expectations rarely seem to develop beyond that first realization. We seldom think past that to consider other expectations we should be managing and how to do so.

To manage expectations effectively, you need to pay attention to these four issues:

- Product

- Process

- Roles

- Relationships

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