Clarifying the expectations.

sherlockAlong this year in London I’m learning how the projects are managed here, how teams are formed and dismissed, how to deal with the day-to-day activities, how to create roadmaps for projects…and a lot of other things.

Needless to say that the environment in the London office is more fluid and working with Projects is very very different from working with the Products.

I’m attending a few business classes focused on Communication and Management, nothing specifically Agile related, but very focused on the Business and the Company.

An important concept that I Iearned in these months and I’m using to re-analyze how I did before is “be sure to set and clarify the expectations”.

It seems pretty obvious but sometimes I think that I wasn’t so clear as I meant to be.
Trying to apply the concept in different aspects I’m familiar with:

    • From my personal point of view “clarify and set the expectation” can mean to explain clearly to my line manager what I expect for the year as goal/achievements/challenges/duties.
    • As a project manager “clarify and set the expectation” can mean to give to the people involved the most clear vision of the project: its main goal, which needs it should solve.
    • As a team leader “clarify and set the expectation” can mean to explain clearly what I expect from the team in terms of delivery/quality/commitment.

All these points are important and to manage correctly or not the expectations can lead to a success or…to something different.

As Scrum Master or team leader I’m particularly sensitive to the last point and looking in these months to my old files I tried to analyze my successful and unsuccessful cases focusing on the way I communicated.

Communication issues?

unnamedVery easy to state that now, dealing with the English, I have communication issues: in some way it’s true, but I really think to communicate much more clearly now that in the past speaking Italian.

Knowing that I have limits with a language that is not mine I put more attention to the words that I use, the body language and I try to summarize aloud what my speaker said in order to be sure to have understood the real meaning.

In Italian I went faster, in some way careless, because I felt confident with the language and I thought I was good in communication just because of that.

Speaking in English I have to think what I want to communicate and be sure to succeed.

In some way this matter can be associated to the approach that I try in the problem detection, but moving the focus a bit more to the communication instead of the problem.

Analyzing how I should communicate with the team

TeamworkIt’s important to clarify what every team member can expect from me and mostly what I expect they do for the team and the project.

I keep myself out of the equation. It’s an important point, the team doesn’t work for me, but I work for the team.

The team works for the project and I have to ensure that it will be done in the more efficient way.

I found also that often exists a bit of confusion about the meaning of “making decision process”, “commitment” and “accountability”.

It’s important to clarify that during a brainstorming any idea is more than welcome and every team member should be part of it.

It’s important to clarify that every brainstorming is time box and at the end of it a decision has to be made.
It’s important to understand that you can be committed, but you can’t necessarily decide on what you are accountable for.
Commitment and Accountability are not synonymous


It’s important to clarify that a solution can be decided by vote, but only if the person accountable for the decision accept it.
In Scrum the team is making decision, but in relation to the project and sometimes the topic, even if technical, is far away from the team accountability (high level infrastructures, company tools, etc etc).

This is the harder part to explain to a team starting with Scrum and excited to make finally independent technical decision.

Sometimes the vote system doesn’t work, a decision has to be taken and one person is call to decide the best way to proceed using the information at his disposal provided by the team’s brainstorming.

It sounds tricky and a bit in contrast with a lot of principle, but in my experience although I would have liked to, nothing was black or white.

My responsibility, sometimes, is to clarify time by time who is accountable and to explain that whatever process the team decides to use to make a decision, the person accountable should be comfortable with it.

Sadly not every time the Expert is fully accountable and not because he couldn’t or wouldn’t be it.

Very often I heard (and I said): why should the PM defines what I should do, if at the end I’m the person that will do the work?
Short answer: because, right or not, he’s the one accountable for the result.

At the same time I had to clarify to the PM that to decide what to do didn’t mean necessarily to decide how to do it and estimate the effort.
This because even if he was accountable, probably he wasn’t the expert nor the person that had to do the work.

As you see it is a very hard balance to find with a lot of gray areas and prone to misunderstandings and discontent.

Because of this, a very important point for me to clarify in every project’s kick-off: the PM is part of the team.

Sure, he plays the game with different rules and in a different pitch, but it’s important that the PM and team know and feel to be part of the same side.

What about the meetings?

desperation1I hate them, I have to attend or to host them.
They can be a powerful resource or a colossal waste of time.

All the meetings I failed, it was because I didn’t clarify the expectations and the meeting got lost in non-sense, generic statements, common places impossible to use to take any action.

It happened that sometimes, at the end of the meeting, it wasn’t clear what the meeting was for.

I came to the resolution that I rejected (and I invited anyone in the team to reject) the meetings without a clear agenda and a clear outcome.
Clear, not necessarily fully detailed.

What’s next?

I’m quite sure that I’ll be back on the topic often and trying to narrow the field of analysis.
I’ve thought about this topic in the past three weeks, I’ve deleted and restarted the post a lot of times and even now I’m not fully convinced that I’ve clarified all the points in the way that I meant to.

Ironic, isn’t it?

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