Expectation design

Increase the probability of people adhering to expectations by establishing clear and fair expectations that are easy to follow. 

Convert insight and best practices into long-lasting, structural capital.

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I know what is mean by expectation design

An expectation is a strong belief that something will happen or will be the case.

When we talk about expectation design in the context of the organization, we are talking about the awareness and deliberate action of articulating clear and fair expectations of various role holders within the organization.

I understand the consequences of unclear expectations

When expectations are unclear:

  • People grow frustrated or anxious because they are unsure of what exactly is expected of them
  • People perform poorly because the expectations of what a great performance looks like is unclear
I ensure high quality expectations 11

Expectations that are slowly and iteratively revealed as a part of unsatisfactory deliveres (the "Just do it and I will tell you how it sucks" approach) often cause frustrations on behalf of the expectation holder and demoralizes the performer.

Expectations should be thought out and cleary communicated ahead of time to avoid the performer having to fall on their face again and again.

Unclear expectations facilitate misunderstandings, and what can be misunderstood will eventually be misunderstood.

Praciticing this skill means ensuring that new team members unfamiliar with unwritten rules can easily conform to expectations, and that it is clear when one is performing within and outside the perimeters of an expectation.

Expectations that are contradictory or overlap create uncertainty and confusion about what is right.

Practicing this skill means ensuring that there exists only one source of truth for a given piece of insight. and that that source produces the same answer every time.

Inaccessible expectations are adhered to less frequently, with the exception being people who are high in conscientiousness or have a great memory.

You can think of this skill as ensuring that an employee can access expectations from inconvenient locations at the inconvenient times quickly and easily.

Expectations that do not have a predetermined location take an unnecessarily long time to locate, and make us uncertain of whether the expectation exists at all.

Practicing this skill means ensuring that even inexperienced employees know where to go to locate a particular expectation.

Unreasonable expectations negatively affect work ethic, produce a bad reputation and are not adhered to in the long run.

Practice this skill by asking yourself: How would potential customers or employees react if they became aware of the expectation?

Expectations that do not represent an experts' preferred way of doing things will not be used or improved, and are gradually made obsolete.

Practice this skill by asking: Does this approach represent how an expert solves this type of problem?

Persistent expectations are expectations that do not depend on one or more people in order for the expectation to be communicated and adhered to.

Practice this skill by asking: Would this expectation be adhered to if key people leave or go on holiday?

If an expectation is not embedded into the way we work, it will only be adhered to by particularly conscientious people.

Pratice this skill by asking yourself: Are there systems, processes or checklists in place that help the role holder easily and automatically adhere to expectations?

If expectations are not kept up to date as the real world changes, they will gradually deteriorate over time until their value is lost.

Practicing this skill means making sure that expectations can easily be updated and that the revised expectation reaches those who are expected to comply with it both now and in the future.

Making sure expectations are familiarizable means having some sort of mechanism where the person expected to adhere to the expectation can reflect on and communicate their level of familiarity and comfort with the expectation.

For a more in-depth perspective on the concept of familiarity with expectations, check out this article.


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