How to Make Reliable Commitments

Your work flow as a team requires that each team member make reliable commitments to each other, day by day.

But how do you assure the commitments your are making or others are making to you are truly “reliable”?

Here is a synopsis of the Elements required:

Essential Elements of a Conversation

  • At least 2 people

  • Both speaking (or hand signals) and listening

  • Verbal communication

  • Possible written communication (illustrations, drawings, follow up emails)

  • Openness to what the other person is thinking and saying

Essential Elements of a Conversation

  • One on one
    NOT if only one speaks

  • Meeting
    NOT if only a lecture or monologue

  • Phone
    NOT if only an announcement or monologue

  • Email exchange
    NOT if email is not answered

Elements of a Request

  • Speaker (Customer) – making a request

  • Listener (Performer) – responding to the request with action

  • Mutually Understood Conditions of Satisfaction

  • Future Action

  • Time, with a due date, NOT “When I get around to it.”

Possible Responses to a Request

“Yes, I can meet your conditions of satisfaction in the time frame you are requesting.”

Accept with Conditions
“I can get what you want done, but I need an extra day, or to work overtime if not.”
“I can’t finish it today unless we shift other priorities. If I don’t do “Z” I have time to get
this done, is that OK?”

Decline – If you can’t say no you can’t make a reliable promise
“My day is completely full of meetings, I won’t have the time to complete “X” by when you have requested.”

”I don’t have time to create the full report, but I can give you summary, will that work?”

Commit to Commit Later
“Everything is so busy, I’m not sure when will be a good time, can we table this?”

When to Say “No”
(Without the ability to say “No”, you cannot make reliable promises)

  • Lack of resources

  • Lack of competence

  • Overburdened

  • Unethical

Characteristics of a Reliable Promise

  • I am competent to perform the task or have access to those who are

  • Includes time, skills, knowledge, tools, supplies, space, working conditions

  • I understand how much time it will take me to perform this task

  • I have blocked the time on my calendar to do this to the Requestor’s satisfaction

  • I am freely making this promise (no crossed fingers behind my back)

  • I know that if I don’t fulfill this promise it will have negative consequences to other and I will have to accept responsibility for that and make it right.

Responsibilities of the Customer
(BEFORE the deal is sealed)

  • Make sure the Promisor has the competence

  • Make sure the Promisor has the wherewithal

  • Help the Promisor make a good estimate of time/resources required

  • Make sure the Promisor has the time

  • Understand the Promisors other commitments

Responsibilities of the Customer (AFTER the deal is sealed)

  • Stay interested in the success of promises made to you

  • Check in with the Promisor to see how he or she is doing

  • Offer your help

  • Get others help

  • Consider revising the Conditions of Satisfaction as circumstances change

  • Consider changing the due date when priorities change

  • Let the Promisor know you are looking forward to completion

  • Always say, “Thank you”

Possible Actions After a Commitment is Made

  • Ask further questions to clarify to make suggestions

  • Cancel a request (by Customer)

  • Revoke a promise (by Promisor)

  • Renegotiate the Conditions of Satisfaction or delivery time (by either) as the situation changes

Reliable Promising is based on “Essential Conversations” © 2009, Lean Project Consulting

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