Managing Expectations a Key Ingredient for Change

Now that your team are ready for change how do you manage their expectations about timing, their role, impact etc. especially if it is a change that will take time?

"Changes are inevitable and not always controllable. What can be controlled is how you manage, react to and work through the change process." ~ Kelly A. Morgan

Whose expectations do you need to manage?

Depending on the type and extent of the change you are implementing will determine the stakeholders whose expectations you need to manage. These will include:

  • Employees - This might range from all employees, to teams, or functions (e.g. sales, customer service, etc.

  • Leadership - this might be the executive team, board of directors, operating team leaders etc.

  • Customers - anyone that is a recipient of your products/services that might be impacted

  • Suppliers/Partners - anyone involved in helping you do what you do e.g. material suppliers, advertising agencies, promoter teams, recruiting firms etc.

  • Other 3rd Parties - government bodies e.g. tax, ministry of health, work cover etc. The best way to know whose expectations you might need to manage is by doing a thorough stakeholder analysis.

What type of Expectations?

Some of the specifics of what needs to manage will depend on the stakeholders themselves. I usually work this out but putting myself in the shoes of the stakeholders that have been identified and asking 'What do I need to know? and What do I want to know?' to be able to engage in the change and continue to play my role effectively.

You'll likely discover some common themes - when is it happening? What is happening? How will it impact me? Why do I need to do this? Is it possible to do on this timing with everything else that's happening? Will I need/get training? How will I be kept informed? etc.

The amount of detail will depend a lot on the impact on each group e.g. for some it will be information to be aware of whereas others that are impacted directly will need more help.

How do you manage these expectations?

  • Be sure to have your vision, the compelling reasons for change, your responses to the '5 beliefs for readiness', goals and values on hand so that you can link these to all your communications. Be consistent.

  • Wherever possible get people involved in aspects of the change. When change is imposed on us the only way we will move forward with it is if we can find something that we can actually control (and believe in) - this could be through contribution, learning, leading etc.

  • Explain that change is a process with a lot of moving parts. Part of the change process means we will be learning new things and we may need to make adjustments to our plans as we go. This is completely normal and in fact to be expected. This might seem obvious but many people are actually unaware of this.

  • Be transparent (open and honest) - it's O.K. (in fact desirable) to say 'I don't know, but I'll find out' or 'We don't have an answer yet but we will let you know as soon as we do' and 'in the meantime here is what we do know'.

  • Make sure you use the right medium/forum - spend time with people face-to-face so they have the opportunity to engage and ask questions and to gauge your level of commitment and engagement to the change. Follow-up with emails or material on a common database etc. that allows people to read and digest at their own leisure or to catch-up if they missed it.

  • Stay in touch, managing expectations carries through the entire change project. When things go well, when they go wrong, when you get behind, when new information comes in etc. Make it a regular part of your communication plan

It's not that hard but it does take some planning, time and commitment - It will be worth it though because in the absence of information or clear expectations people will make up their own facts and jump to the worse conclusions which then creates dissatisfaction at best, distrust and failure to support the change at worst.

“Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them." ~ Paul Hawken