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Thought Leadership Series by the Professor: Expectation Management

By: John Regan

Many problems on the job can be traced back to the miscommunication of expectations. Whether regarding timelines, the targeted audience, check-listed processes, quality defects, or personality conflicts, a simple lack of understanding of the expectation is often at the root of the issue.

Early in my career, I began to realize that the thought processes of others differed from mine. Once you begin working with people of all different backgrounds, it becomes apparent how differently we interpret information. The possible issue with this fact is that sometimes there are individuals who don’t understand these differences in mental thought, and it can often lead to conflict in a workplace or even our relationships.

To help combat this misunderstanding of expectations, I recommend that teams develop a communication matrix that is shared frequently with all team members.

The matrix details not only the communication method, but the intended audience, the urgency assigned, and the party responsible for the communication. Commonly called handoffs, debriefs, or action reports, these communication matrixes are highly effective when followed and embraced by teams.

Here is an example of a matrix that you can adopt with your teams today, based on the FEMA NIMS guidance, this matrix has broad applicability:

  • Organizational structures and role descriptions; “Who do I report to and how do I ask them questions?” is the most basic question people need to have answered.

  • Standards for planning, and execution. From both a high-level strategy standpoint, to a day-by-day workflow, knowing what to expect and when can create clarity for all involved.

  • Personnel qualification standards. This seems common sense, but many times we don’t know the skills that people in our organizations have outside of their current role.

  • Equipment acquisition and certification standards. Knowing what tools to use and how to use them drives smooth task completion.

  • Interoperable communications processes, procedures and systems. Are you an email only organization? What about Slack or MS Teams? Phone or Text? Maybe all the above but knowing when to use each system should be clarified.

  • Information management systems with a commonly accepted architecture. This is a challenge that many organizations face as technology evolves – where do I find what I need and how to do I share my files with the right people?

  • Publication management processes and activities. How do we get the word out to those who need it? Fliers, jobsite briefs, email, social media? All great possibilities that if not managed, could lead to chaos.

What communication matrixes have you successfully used in your businesses?

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