Among the most powerful forces in our lives are expectations.
Some expectations come from other people: spouses, peers, bosses, friends, parents, children, suppliers, neighbors, customers, and plenty of others, who all have their expectations of us.
They expect certain things regarding our speech, our behavior, and our character.
Additional expectations come more clearly from within us. We accept certain norms, and we expect ourselves to follow them. We prize certain goals, and expect to realize them.
One of the biggest sources of problems can come from what I call "The Expectation Gap". Simple enough, it is the difference between that which is imagined and the reality which emerges.
We see the Gap everywhere.
How many of us knew someone who, when they got married, had unrealistic expectations of their new spouse? Even though the new spouse had a history of financial problems, drug abuse, or other big issues, the other party expected that marriage would change them. But, after a few years, little was different. And this is where the Gap sets in. Divorce became inevitable: something which could have been both predicted and avoided years before.
In business, it can be especially acute. We expect "just-in-time" to be exactly that. We expect our co-workers and subordinates to do things as we would. We expect the boss will appreciate our extra efforts and dedication. We expect the new IT system will finally make everything work seamlessly.
When these things don't happen, we get the outcomes from the Gap: anger, lost customers, low employee morale, a growing credibility shortage, shrinking productivity, et. al.
Critical to managing The Expectation Gap is the establishment of REALISTIC objectives. This doesn't mean we should lower the bar and not expect ourselves and others to perform at a high level. Rather, we should maturely recognize the flaws inherent to human nature and plan accordingly, especially in an increasingly complex world.