The success of any project always depends on all roles and stakeholders involved in the project, but today we will focus on the role of the client. I will show you the most effective steps on how to get your expectations really met.
Expectations are the starting point of every project. You know them as a client, of course, but the struggle is how to communicate them and properly express them to your project manager. Given that I have been in the role of project manager many times, I will share with you a few key tips that are really a game-changer in project management. When I have an introductory meeting with my client, I want to first find out what are the key challenges or so-called pains that a stakeholder wants to solve.
Usually, as a stakeholder, you know your problems and the pain you want to resolve very well. I, as the project manager, however, want clear information from you and I need to really understand your key struggles so that we can move on to the next step. However, there is a challenge at this point, which I will explain in more detail. In my experience, stakeholders most often express their pain with concrete solutions they want, instead of clearly communicating their needs, which are actually the basis and the right starting point for finding the best solutions.
How to clearly express your needs and expectations?
Let’s look at a situation on a simple case that we can all identify with. Let’s say you decide to build a house. You hire an architect and at the first meeting you want to explain your wishes to him. But most investors tackle this by starting to list how big a house should be, what kind of windows and doors they like, how many square feet they want the rooms to be etc. A good architect stops the client at this point and begins to guide him with the right questions, that enable him to understand the client’s true needs. What does this mean? An architect is the one who will be in charge of finding a solution based on your situation, so he doesn’t need a solution from you but insightful information, such as that you have three children and that each of them needs their own space, that you often work from home and need a quiet corner or office, that you have a big dog that needs enough exercise and a big garden … All of these are key starting points from which the architect will be able to design a house for you and find a comprehensive solution that takes all your needs into the account. It’s the same with project management. You need to be very focused on communicating your needs as clearly as possible and leave the solutions to the provider you want to hire.
The most critical point in the process: managing expectations
For the project manager, the first priority is always to come to the right conclusions about what you, as a client, really want. This requires quite a bit of experience for him to be able to steer the whole conversation and process in the right direction. I would like to dedicate a few words to one of the methods that has proven to be the most effective in my work, and I always use it to achieve a full understanding of all stakeholders and their expectations. If, as a client, you are aware of how important it is for the project manager to understand you correctly, you can also make a significant contribution to the successful implementation of the project.
Best practice: visualization of expectations
When communicating about a project solution or product, it very often happens that the two sides have two completely different views and expectations of what the final solution should be like. The challenge is that at first glance it seems that all participants are talking about the same thing, but this is very often not the case.
How to prevent miscommunication?
For me, visualization proved to be the absolute best technique that I used every time. I realized that it is very difficult to find out from a conversation alone whether all involved are talking about the same thing. However, when the whole process and the proposed solution are sketched on a sheet of paper or a whiteboard and people can look at the actual sketch, it turns out much faster whether any of the stakeholders have different expectations.
If as a stakeholder you make sure that the project manager really understands you, you are already on the 3/4 path to success.Andrej Lovsin
As a client, ALWAYS be a part of the process at every step
Another key challenge in getting your expectations met at the end of the project is your participation in the process. Even if the starting point of the project have been excellently and precisely defined, in the end there may be a completely inappropriate solution prepared. Why? Because it is one thing to define everything well and define solutions that have great potential to meet your needs, and the other is to actually realize and implement these solutions.
Any project, especially the product development, is never fixed at the outset, but variables appear during the process that affect the final outcome. Let’s go back to our case of building a house. It can happen, that in the middle of a project you find out that you are going to have another child. If you do not communicate this in time, the contractor cannot find the right solution. When the house is finished, there will be one children’s room missing and no alternative solution.
When you are actively involved in the project and the project manager informs you in time about all phases and stages, this cannot happen. Make sure you inform him about possible variables in your internal processes and keep track if the project is still going in the desired direction.
Transparent communication is the key
In any project, always pay attention to transparent communication and make sure that you, as a stakeholder, are always actively involved in the process of how the solution is built for you. The project manager must keep you informed of the progress and also obtain your feedback on whether everything is still going according to your expectations.
When you decide to develop a solution, it is essential to be aware that you are not buying a finished product. The process is not the same as going to the store and choosing a product where you can see exactly what you are getting. The development of a product or project solution is always a process in which your energy and time investment is extremely important.
One last tip: consider the needs of all key stakeholders
My last piece of advice is that you involve all the key stakeholders that know your internal process and who will benefit from the final product or solution. It is important that the project manager is well acquainted with their needs, because your key stakeholders in the company know exactly what they need for work, they recognize what is lacking, what does not work as it should, etc. When you include their opinions on time and follow all the key elements and steps listed above, the success of any project is guaranteed.
Summary of 3 key tips
So to sum it up, in order for you to really get what you expect, it makes sense to follow three key tips.
- It is important that you know how to focus on expressing your needs (not proposing solutions) to help the project manager really come to the right conclusions.
- In the second step, it is crucial that all participants understand each other correctly. I have listed what is important for transparent communication, but I suggest that you also sketch and visualize the final agreement, as this makes it easier to summarize the expectations of stakeholders and determine whether they are really aligned.
- The third most important thing is that you are always part of the process at all steps and communicate changes in a timely manner, involve all stakeholders who will use the solution/product and monitor whether all steps are going according to your expectations.
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