Management of Expectations

Managing expectations is always hard.  Lots of angles, lots of risk.  Who is right?  Should you track all of your hours?  Should you pad your hours?  In my experience, people want predictability in an unpredictable world.  They want to hear, “This is exactly what we can do at maximum efficiency.” with the follow-up later of “We delivered everything we said, on time and under budget.”

Personally, I don’t think that creates the best experience of working with someone.  People need stretch goals.  They also need to take risk into account.  Sometimes, not always, but sometimes things go wrong.  And when they go wrong, it is the wise man who had built in some wiggle room.  Under-deliver just once and you tarnish your reputation.  Over-deliver and you are a hero.  If you don’t have stretch goals and some wiggle room you are just setting yourself up for failure.

GEEK ALERT: Warning the following contains Star Trek references.

From Star Trek III:

Kirk: “How long to re-fit?”
Scotty: “Eight weeks. But you don’t have eight weeks, so I’ll do it for you in two.”
Kirk: “Do you always multiply your repair estimates by a factor of four?”
Scotty: “How else to maintain my reputation as a miracle worker?”
Kirk: “Your reputation is safe with me.”

When Scotty visited the Next Generation Enterprise and had a talk with Geordi La Forge. (Episode: “Relics”)

Scotty: “Starfleet captains are like children. They want everything right now and they want it their way. But the secret is to give them only what they need, not what they want.”
Geordi: “Yeah, well, I told the captain I’d have this analysis done in an hour.”
Scotty: “How long will it really take?”
Geordi: “An hour.”
Scotty: “You didn’t tell him now long it would really take, did you?”
Geordi: “Of course I did.”
Scotty: “Laddie, you got a lot to learn if you want people to think of you as a miracle worker!”

With this all said, You have to be careful who you tell this to.  Don’t mismanage expectations by giving away your secret sauce.  It is a delicate balance grasshopper.  Thoughts?


3 responses to “Management of Expectations”

  1. Jörn Zaefferer Avatar

    Thanks for those Stark Trek quotes! I knew the “classic” one (I do it in one hour! You’ve got ten minutes! Ok!) but not these.

  2. Barbara Ballard Avatar

    Was there an April UX let’s-use-scifi-references meeting I didn’t know about? 5 of the speakers at MX used them: Star Wars, Star Trek NG, Marvel Superheros, and more. Then I went home and found several more references, mostly to Star Trek.

  3. Glen Lipka Avatar
    Glen Lipka

    Yes, we met at the secret lair. It was a lovely soire, although Jakob Nielsen had way to much to drink and started going off on how he hates the iPod.

Whatya think?

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