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7 Ways to Manage Expectations During Change

Last Friday night, my back seat passenger window refused to go up. When I investigated, I could hear the motor mechanism clicking, but the window didn’t move. It was probably jammed, I thought.

The next day, I went to my car dealership and was able to get a technician to take a look without an appointment—things were looking up. He said it was probably a faulty cable. It would cost $500 to repair and take about two hours install the new part.

“$500!” I exclaimed, with a look of horror on my face. “Couldn’t it be something else?” I pleaded. 

“I hope it’s not the motor” he said. Motors must be more expensive than cables, I thought.

My car repair experience is similar to most activities in life: we evaluate how well things are going based on our expectations. Often these predictions are not based on fact but rather wishful thinking.

Organizational change operates in the same way; exceptional performance can be perceived as sub-standard results when compared to unrealistic expectations. “I was expecting X,” is a common comment from leaders whose perceptions are higher than reality.

Here are six ways to manage this bias when managing a change project:

  • Build awareness up front that the project plan (or outcomes) will need to be adjusted if conditions change or the agreed level of support is not provided—not doing so leads to impressions of mismanagement or failure
  • Brief leaders and their teams on changes (and how they will impact them) as they occur—delaying communication only make gaps appear worse
  • Compare progress with similar change projects—either internal or external—facts and data are the best defense against guesses
  • Build in room for variances in your plan—provide timing ranges when specific dates are unknown (e.g., week of September 29)
  • Identify contingencies you can activate quickly if your original plan is no longer possible—minimize the gap
  • Stay connected with stakeholders, especially those managing the business, to proactively test and adjust assumptions
  • Remind people that it is normal for a change plan to be updating—people often forget

Setting realistic expectations is critical to the success of any change project. Without them, some people are going to be disappointed regardless of the benefits of the outcome.

My window repair cost $479.25 and took one and a half hours to complete—slightly better than my informed expectations. The dealership washed my car too, which was a bonus. As I opened and closed my now working car window, I felt lucky.


So, what are you going to do to sell your book?

P.T. Barnum said, “A terrible thing happens when you don’t promote yourself…nothing.” I’m sure this is true for authors so I jumped into writing my Promotion Plan with vigour. The goal is to state what I will do to sell my book (with vigour). There are many articles about how the author (not publisher) must drive awareness and sales. If not, then something terrible happens. 

Passion, confidence, and commitment are three themes I have  woven into my promotion plan. It has six elements:

Book Distribution to Audience Influencer: Sending copies to members of my three target audiences: leaders working on big changes (my primary target), post-secondary teachers and students, and Kraft and Cadbury employees and supporters.

Social Media Notifications:Communication about my book to my networks and business associations.

Magazines  and Blogs: Reviews, interviews, and serializing content in magazines and blogs.

Keynote Speaking Engagements: Presentations at conferences, association meetings, and schools.

Book Web Site: A dedicated site including this blog, author Q&A, chapter summaries and support materials.

Award Submissions: Participation in media and association award programs.

Please let me know if I missed any promotion opportunities. I would appreciate your thoughts.

I just bought Michale Hyatt’s Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World to fortify my plan. He is offering $350 of bonus resources if you buy a copy by the end of today. Now that’s a promotion!


10 Facts I’m Ignoring About Book Publishing

As I write the introduction and conclusion of my book, my mind is wandering to the next phase: getting published. It’s easy to get discouraged when reading facts about the book industry. Most statistics-based articles say “it’s really, really hard” and “don’t get your hopes up.” I can’t think of a better underdog challenge!

It takes optimism and tenacity (and skill) to achieve great things, so I will be ignoring  the following: 

– Over one million books were published in 2009
– Amazon.com has 74,000 change management  and 640,000 change books
– In the first quarter of 2011, the number of print books sold in Canada dropped by 10.9 percent
– Book industry sales declined by 5 percent between 2007 and 2009 in the U.S.
– Less than 2 percent of published books are commercially viable
– 70 percent of books published do not earn back their advance
– 80 percent of book sales are controlled by five publishing conglomerates
– Out of 1.2 million books tracked by Nielsen Book Scan (as of 2004), 950,000 books sold fewer than 99 copies, and another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies
– The average U.S. non-fiction book sells less than 250 copies per year
– A book has less than 1 percent chance of being stocked in a bookstore

I know rejection is part of the process and that many successful authors have lived through it (Jack Canfield, William Faulkner, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Dr. Seuss…). So, like any goal in life, I’ll persevere until it is accomplished. But I am getting ahead of myself: first I need to finish my book so that I don’t become part of a “books that were never finished” statistic.


You Get What You Expect, More or Less

Last Saturday, I went to the Van Halen concert in Toronto. This was a big event because they had just released their first album of new material in twenty-eight years and had not been on tour for the last four.

I loved the show; it was everything I had hoped it would be and more. The band was more relaxed and tighter than their 2007 show and it felt like a celebration of their songs and long history. 

The newspaper reviews agreed that Eddie Van Halen is still a virtuoso guitarist but were mixed about David Lee Roth: He was described as “an ultimate showman,” “interesting and charming,” “ragged vaudevillian huckster,” and “hokey carney.” I wondered how the same performance could evoke such a wide range of perceptions. Perhaps each reviewer was guided by his or her expectations and their views reflected whether they were higher, the same, or lower than reality.

 I know expectations will influence how people perceive my book. Someone once said that expectations equal experience plus hopes minus fears. If the reader doesn’t know me, his or her expectations will be set by reviews, title, cover and introduction. It’s my job to shape high expectations and exceed them. Phil

Expectations of David Lee Roth?

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