There is a ‘meeting expectations’ cult in business. It has created its own concept of (customer) services: meet customer expectations, or, better still, exceed customer expectations. The cult has been developed without the cult leaders asking too much about the logic, reality, reasonability, irrationality or potential craziness of the expectations that the customer may have. The question is how to meet them, or to exceed them. It seems sometimes ‘at all cost’. After all, the same cult did create the expression ‘the customer is always right’, one of the most outrageous assumptions that business life could embrace.
I can understand the customer area. Sort of. But I have a hard time with this ‘philosophy’ when exported to all aspects of daily business life, resulting in bizarre stereotypes such as starting meetings, sometimes one-on-ones, with, ‘what are your expectations?’
Actually, I am a bit harsh. That may even be OK (maybe) but once ‘expectations’ have been listed, nobody discusses the pertinence of the expectations, or their relevance, or the potential ability of meeting them. I have yet to see a meeting that starts in that way (and I attend hundreds of them in client set ups) and that, once the expectations are itemised in the flipchart, somebody says: sorry, those expectations are rubbish, or they will not be met, or wrong meeting, or they are unrealistic, or, hey, I did not know that you were expecting this. No, here we go, lets carry on. Ticked. Next.
Also, only a minority go back at the end of the meeting and check. And then what? Is it a good meeting or a bad meeting because of the expectations? What if my expectations were A,B,C and the meeting went in unexpected directions where we learnt X,Y,Z? Does it make it a terrible meeting?
‘Expectations’ is almost always a bad frame, an input and output model that intends well but creates an artificial relationship in the form of transaction: I have something to give you, list what you want. Give and take. I may give you garbage because this is what you want, so here it is. I can even exceed it. It’s not up to me to tell you that your expectations seem subterranean.
Nobody (that I know) goes home and says to her husband or his wife: “Darling what are your expectations for this evening, so I can make sure we are satisfied tomorrow morning?”
There is an incredible ability for business to adopt Martian language. My recommendation is ‘keep calm and speak normally; this is already 50% of the success of the meeting’.