Expectations II

Expectations are always a recurring theme for me because they are so fundamentally simple, yet frequently made so unnecessarily complicated. The most simplistic definition of any kind of relationship management (professional, personal, etc.) relies on the foundation of communication, of knowing (and expressing) expectations. Without a foundation, you have nothing to stand on or build from. But even when the same terms and words are used, each person’s understanding of what they mean differ. Semantics 101.

The biggest problem in establishing that foundation is that people use their own dictionary – whose terms and phrases are defined based upon not only their unique experiences and views, but also on their individual needs and agendas – and they assume that they can apply their personal semantics into any collaborative environment. Relationships need glossaries, and the terms need to be defined by all of the people involved based on the mutually desired objectives, not on individual desires. A client may know what ‘content’ means to them, and a developer may know what ‘content’ means to them – but is it the same thing? And is that definition based off of (the end goal of) creating a successful end product, or is defined by convenience, for whichever absolves one from responsibility for it?

Developers/coworkers/partners who neglect establishing the mere basics of expectations – telling the other(s) when to expect what, how frequently they’ll hear from them, what they’re doing, when they need to have meetings, etc., are setting the team up for failure. It’s incredibly easy to sit around with a notion in your head, only to be disappointed when your mental understanding doesn’t mesh with reality of someone else’s colloquialisms. And it’s just as easy to fall into the pitfall of avoidance – thinking that you can either assume things based on some sort of psychic intuition (after all, we’re trained as a society to embrace that notion of understanding without communication, of idealizing our delusions rather than risk destroying illusion by validation) or that you can profess ignorance by avoiding dealing with them. The client-developer relationship needs the same fundamental amount of effort put into communication and translation/clarification as any relationship does. Once you start to see the client as someone that is on your side instead of someone that is a barrier to your agenda/objectives, then you can see that communication isn’t a burden, but another tool to ensure success and happiness for all. And if that isn’t the desired outcome for all of your relationships, shouldn’t it be?