In the quest to improve performance we’ve gone through several useful philosophies about what to manage, specifically we’ve been told to practice managing:
These are all valuable management philosophies but they don’t acknowledge the most fundamental practice: the practice of managing commitments.
What are commitments?
Commitments take several forms e.g. promises, oaths, vows, pledges, duties, and obligations, and essentially they all come down to an agreement to produce some outcome between two or more people.
Why are commitments important?
Commitments allow us to work together effectively
Commitments are the only means by which we can help and support each other take care of concerns that we can’t handle on our own. They allow us to do more together than we could individually.
We all need the help and support of other human beings to take care of what matters to us. That’s why employers hire employees, why tennis players need ball boys/girls, golfers need caddies, and why we all need team mates and colleagues.
We simply cannot live large without other people producing situations that we don’t have the time, willingness or competence to produce.
Without commitment nothing works
Consider all of the things that work in your life, from turning on the lights, to getting a tumour removed, everything that works is because individuals and organizations are making and keeping commitments.
When commitments are made, expectations are set.
When commitments are kept things work seamlessly and life is great. When commitments are broken, people’s expectations go unfulfilled, and people are not able to take care of what matters to them.
When commitments are not kept opportunities are lost and breakdowns are created or exacerbated.
The cost of broken commitments is high to the group it affects
There are very tangible and measurable costs to broken commitments.
If you fail to carry out a commitment, lets say to secure a venue for an important meeting, then that meeting and the other participants are adversely affected. They incur the cost in time and money, for an unfulfilled or delayed outcome etc.
…and is even higher to you
Your social and professional standing goes down when you break your commitments because people assess you as as incompetent or unreliable.
Your reputation takes a hit as people say—behind your back—that you can’t be trusted.
Remember we are all looking for the best help and support to take care of what we value. When you break your commitments you signal that you are not good help!
It’s like when you were a kid picking sides for your street game of cricket, stickball, football or whatever. Who did you pick first?
The best player!
Who did you pick last?
The worst player!
Life unfolds a bit more slowly than the street games you played as a kid, and it takes weeks, months or sometimes years to identify the best, average and worst players.
The best players are the ones who keep their commitments and the worst players are the ones that don’t reliably deliver on what they promise.
And street game principles apply in life: the best players get the opportunities and picked for the top jobs, plum projects, promotions, bonuses etc., and the worst players get left on the sidelines.
Are you managing your commitments?