No matter how hard you try, that one client never seems happy. At every client meeting, you find yourself getting beat up about something else that wasn't "quite right." And what's really irritating is that the client is always making last minute requests of you, with little information to go on.
In conversations with other people, you find you're not alone—they are experiencing similar scenarios with their clients. So the topic of conversation among you is about how your clients do nothing but complain. And you have an inkling that similar conversations are going on among some clients about your company and how you're not delivering services as needed. Productivity is down, as people's energy is tied up in talking about "those other guys." Relationships that are critical to business results are tenuous, at best.
Too many of us have experienced situations similar to the one described above. As demands on people increase, and the focus centers on the bottom line, clear communication of expectations between people and their clients seems to deteriorate. This results in rework or work-arounds, lower quality products and services, unhappy clients, and frustrated people who feel stuck in a game of "guess what I need and how I need it."
There is a way to get out of such situations—or avoid getting into them in the first place! By engaging in a process called Shared Expectations, you and your clients will experience more productive, effective relationships with one another. Shared Expectations enables groups to:
- engage in an open, honest dialogue with each other.
- ensure that an effective business partnership exists between them.
- clearly and effectively communicate expectations and priorities to each other.
- discuss both the current and desired levels of performance relative to the expectations.
- identify where they need to work together to close the uncovered gaps.
- commit to regular reviews of progress in meeting expectations.
- Documented, clarified, prioritized expectations
- A mutual understanding of key expectations
- A measure of the gap between current and desired performance for each expectation
- A jointly developed Action Plan to reduce/close gaps, beginning with the highest priority items
- A commitment to monitor progress and re-calibrate current performance levels
Although Shared Expectations requires a time commitment up-front, the benefits are numerous, including:
- Provides a validated focus on where to put energy/resources (avoids rework!)
- Allows for alignment of expectations within each group
- Encourages a proactive versus reactive approach to avoiding problems
- Increases understanding of how each group's actions impact the other
- Encourages on-going feedback between groups
- Produces improved business results; increased customer satisfaction
Shared Expectations is Not
- A survey or questionnaire—instead, it requires people to talk to each other.
- A "finger-pointing" session—the intent is to work to make things better, not to "dump" on each other.
- A single, one-time event—the dialogue that begins with Shared Expectations becomes a way to communicate on a regular basis.
- A problem identification sessionzthe process focuses on key expectations—not just problems.
- A focus on only what's "wrong"; it's an opportunity to share with others which expectations they are meeting, and to encourage them to continue to do so.
- A tool only for strained partnerships--it's a great way to strengthen good relationships, too.
- A cookie-cutter approach—the process rarely looks the same for everyone; it is easily customized to each unique situation
- Pre-Session Preparation
- Pre-meetings with key players from each group
1-2 hours per meeting
- Follow-up Session
- Meeting with both groups present
1 full day
- Follow through on commitments
Usually 1- 6 months
- Review of action plan and expectations with both groups present
The "Shared Expectations Process" has made significant improvements to business relationships and business results in companies such as AT&T, McDonalds, Martin Brower, United Airlines, Abbott Labs, Union Pacific Railroad, and Grainger. Why not let it improve your world, too?