What to Expect from Setting Expectations

Great companies unlock incredible value by simply setting expectations. The lean practitioner will tell you that the value in setting expectations is to recognize and solve problems, but there is a benefit even before solving the problems. A benefit of about a 15% improvement in performance.

The 15% of improvement by setting expectations comes from two key elements; aligning everyone on the expectation and showing the people responsible for the process what good looks like.

Aligning everyone on the expectation

Organizations that recognize the value of expectations also realize how hard they are to establish when done correctly. In baseball, the rule simply could be “You need throw the ball in a zone the batter has a chance to hit to be called a strike.” But that would be vague and hard to interpret. Instead baseball defines the strike zone as-

an area over home plate extending approximately from the armpits to the knees of a batter when in the batting position. The ball must be pitched through this area in order for a strike to be called.

Alignment begins when the expectation is designed with clarity. The pitchers begin to throw the ball in a more consistent area after understanding the expectation. Interestingly enough, it is still hard to interpret. Just ask the umpire suffering critique from fans about how they interpret balls and strikes, but there is no doubt the ball ends up traveling in a more consistent zone.

Likewise, an expectation that sounds something like; “produce as much as you can” is not effective at creating a consistent output. But an expectation that asks to produce 25 widgets in an hour begins to establish clear strike zone.

What good looks like

Once the expectation is established it is easy to see what good looks like. Even with the clear definition of the strike zone, image the challenge of pitching in that zone without a catcher holding up a glove.

Likewise, in operations, even with a clear expectation to ship every order on the day it was scheduled, the operation would struggle without a list of what is scheduled to ship in sequence that day. It sounds simple, but many struggling organizations let their work centers process orders based on what is available in the queue and in any order. (If flow rules have been established this can work, but not without rules)

15% improvement

Organizations that embrace setting clear expectations can expect as much as a 15% improvement from alignment around what good looks like. Encourage your organization to define a strike zone for every process and make sure they have a catcher giving them a target.

Learn more in Patrick’s book, “Facilitating Effective Change,” available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He is also the founder of UTV Advisors, a business consulting firm based in Pittsburgh, PA.


Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

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