As in any project, we need to know all the expectations before they can be met. Hidden agendae remain hidden and lead to resentment - or worse - later on. Two different articles talk about expectations recently, and from rather different perspectives.
Brian Kennemer recounts the traditional conflict between Sales and Design in projectified: What's Wrong with New Product Projects? It's the Expectations Stupid!
So over time this kind of thing surely has an impact on the ability to kill features or even whole projects. If the sales guys tell enough customers about feature X then it had better get released or the company is hosed! It is about setting expectations. If you tell customers to expect 'something' by June but all your sales team is telling them to expect x, y and z and then in June you release s, t and y because THAT IS WHAT WAS IN THE SPEC then in the customers eyes you have failed even thought the project was EXACTLY what it was supposed to be, came in on time and under budget but the setting of false expectations ruined it before it was even released.
And Jeff Angus gives a much more positive spin on setting high expectations in his Management by Baseball article Dodgertown Dementia: Experiments You Shouldn't Try At Home. Except...
Dodger manager Jim Tracy looks like he's about to try an experiment unprecedented in the last 40 years. It involves focusing on setting expectations as a way to alter behaviors as opposed to allowing history to freeze expectations.
Jeff Angus also sent me a note when I started up my consulting business with the suggestion that I "talk as if" the project in question was a success to get around any nay-sayers in the organization who might not want the project to succeed. Set up the expectation of success, rather than allowing other voices to suggest the demise of the project.
Expectations are a tricky thing, as we all know. Expectations for the outcome of the project are one thing, and need to be managed to the positive. Expectations that someone can overcome hurdles, such as in the baseball example, need to be very carefully managed with appropriate fall-back scenarios if the expectations aren't met.
But in product design and development or project management? As Brian says, the expectations are essentially set in the design specs or in the project goals. Expectations outside these parameters cannot be met, unless they are happy side-effects. If you want your product to cost pennies per gram, then that had better be in the design parameters -- and it had better be clear the consequences of not meeting that criteria. In the drug industry, the cost/gram is not the biggest deciding factor, whereas in commodity products being able to eek out a few extra pennies might mean the difference between make or break.