Expectations are one of the keys to a great relationship with your development team (and in life!).
I’m going to pick on a category of us developers. The moonlighters: those of us who are putting in extra work on nights and weekends to sharpen our skills and earn a bit of extra money.
I’ve seen this happen a number of times. I have personally done this myself before I worked for myself. A moonlighter gets pulled into a project with the best intentions: I can work 20 hours a week on your project! I’ll work a few hours each night and extra on the weekends.
They start off strong, working a few hours a night, but eventually, their 20 turns into 15 turns into 10. It’s certainly not impossible to moonlight on work (in fact, I recommend it), but it turns out, it’s really really hard to work a full job and then work even more.
By definition, the developer is not meeting expectations. They committed to and were expected to work 20 hours a week, but now they are working 10 hours a week. At this point, there needs to be a moment of open reflection and reconsideration of expectation.
If you dig down into why a current circumstance is frustrating, oftentimes it’s because expectations aren’t being met. Time commitments aren’t being hit, budget is way over, features are missing the mark, etc.
Expectations need to be both set and maintained. On a regular cadence, you need to check on your expectations. Is this working? Do we need to adjust? Methodically evaluate, consider, and reset expectations before they turn into problems.
When an expectation isn’t being met
- The expectation either needs to change OR
- The work towards meeting the expectation needs to change.
If you decide your expectation needs to stay as-is, what needs to change around it to make it so? Inertia suggests that without a change, it will continue as it is. Get everyone on board with the change.
A note of caution. Resist the urge to turn expectations into promises. That word carries emotional baggage and there are few things that can be truly promised in our space. Hold your expectations, but allow them to be formed by circumstance.
Set open lines of communication where evaluation of expectations is a norm, and your projects will find more success and clarity.