12 April 2022

Project Realities Vs Expectations: Don’t Create Clients from Hell!

Post-it notes on a glass wall

Project management is complex, and sometimes despite your best effort things don’t go as smoothly as you planned. It is all too common for projects to have high expectations from the start; from your client and from yourself. Without thinking about it you have likely placed high expectations on your project before you begin, and on yourself.  

Good project management is essential to meeting expectations and guiding a project through to completion with minimal hiccups. The Project Management institute says that companies that use an experienced manager during project implementation lose 28x less money than those that don’t. 

However, even for the most experienced project managers it isn’t always smooth sailing. To avoid creating a high stress working environment and client; it is important to understand the realities of project work and how to manage expectations.  

The Realities of Project Work  

Despite best intentions, sometimes projects don’t go according to plan. This is fairly common, as within organisations there are everchanging factors that must be considered. Whether it is a change in budget, unrealistic timeframes or even changing requirements over time there will likely be some hurdles to navigate. However, being aware of these realities makes it much easier for you to deal with and manage. 


Expectation: The budget has been set for the project, and it will not be exceeded. 

Reality: Budgets and cost are going to be one of the driving factors on your project. So, what happens if this budget changes, or your project goes over budget? Unfortunately, it is fairly common for projects to exceed initial budgets. Whether it be due to an increase in cost for materials, technology or resource there is likely to be fluctuating costs. According to Liquid Planner, almost 50% of projects exceed their initial budget.  

Managing Expectations 

When it comes to cost, the client is going to be precious about the budget which is entirely understandable. To manage budget concerns, make sure to be entirely transparent and have multiple checkpoints throughout the project. Outlining the increased costs, with reasons why and clear benefits will allow open communication and prevent a hefty budget increase at a later date. 


Expectation: Everything will go according to plan and the project will continue on schedule even with last minute additions to workload. 

Reality: Unrealistic schedule expectations will hinder performance. When a schedule is set at the start of a project, it won’t be met if additional tasks are added to the workload. Sometimes, tasks take longer than expected and it is better to spend the time doing a thorough job rather than rush to meet tight deadlines.  

Managing Expectations 

Again, transparency is key here. Make sure to have multiple review points throughout the project where schedules and deadlines can be discussed; if they need to change be prepared to say why and give evidence to support your argument. Where deadlines are set, it is valuable to overestimate to allow time for longer tasks and any mistakes. 


Expectation: The objectives and deliverables are clear from the start; they will not change.  

Reality: Project work is fluid, and deliverables may change. The objectives are not always set in stone and stakeholders can change their direction.  

Managing Expectations  

Be prepared for a change in direction, but make sure to address these with open communication. Make sure to align with your initial KPI’s and ask that new objects and KPI’s be set. You can then be transparent on whether budget or schedule changes are required.  

At Choix, we endeavour to make projects work for both consultants and clients. Our clients trust us to source the best talent, and for that talent to deliver the best results. Part of that is to manage expectations from the start and be open, transparent and honest about any concerns or hinderances to the project’s success.  

Companies that use an experienced manager during project implementation lose 28x less money than those that don’t.