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Managing Expectations As A Project Manager

Paul Naybour Paul Naybour

Published: 11th September 2015


Managing expectations is an important part of a project manager’s job role. Here we look at some simple ways to manage expectations in any project.


No matter how much project management training you have had, you will always come up against problems that need addressing in creative ways throughout your career – it’s just the nature of the job. You will face various requests for changes and additions – the goal posts will always be moving. When a PM does not manage expectations from the very start of the project, problems can arise very quickly.

Managing Expectations

Early Planning

Senior management often set expectations at the beginning of a project without really thinking about realistic delivery times. Because of this, it is important you get involved in the project planning as early as possible in order to set key tasks and timeframes everyone involved can agree on.

Ensure Stakeholders Are Involved

This is particularly relevant to managing expectations when the project is related to IT. From the beginning, converse and coordinate with the IT team to make sure they get their say on expectations and timeframes for delivery. The IT guys are your specialists on this project so they have an invaluable insight into how long certain tasks will take. You need project estimates not guesstimates if you are to avoid problems down the line.

Keep It Real

Everyone involved in the project has to be committed to the project. So everyone involved, or a representative for everyone involved, should be there at the beginning to have a say in setting expectations. Find out what the project stakeholders want – and how they really hope to benefit from the project.

Keep It Clear

Every single person involved in the project should have a clear idea of what their roles and responsibilities are. Ensure your expectations of each individual or department are clear – you can never over communicate. You should also ensure that each individual or department not only understands how they are involved but why. How does their role fit into the overall project vision? You should also ensure everyone understands the time they personally are expected to give to this project. If you expect weekly meetings with stakeholders, conference calls with senior management or daily updates from team members – make sure they know what is expected of them.


It is important as a PM that you are clearly communicating with everyone, but that won’t do much good if they aren’t communicating with each other. Of course you will be the person everyone goes to in relation to key decisions and input, but they also need to be letting each other know if there are any problems or changes. They need to be open if they have spotted any potential risks or problems that could affect the deadlines. Make it clear that you expect them to be open and concise with communication. You should also let them know what to expect from you in the way of communication and set up a secondary person or system should you be unavailable to speak at a certain time.


Project management is a core business skill – it’s a crucial part of the success and growth of any company and project managers can make a difference in many ways; one of those being managing expectations on a project so that everyone involved understands what the end result will be.

  1. Petros Rigas says:

    Thanks for sharing. I’d like to emphasize the issue of diversity when it comes to managing projects. In many of the projects I’ve managed across South East Asia, I’ve found diversity to be significantly important when it comes to managing projects. Project managers need to become aware of the differences in culture and business structure when managing projects across boundaries. They will otherwise find themselves in conflict sometimes with the customer and other times with their own team members.

  2. KQ says:

    Nice read! I agree with Petros comment. Cultural differences and expectations are few things you can learn with time and experience. If following up is expected religiously in one part of the world, there can be constraints where questioning 2nd time might offend them.

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