I'm pleased to share with you a new way of understanding the basics of organizational performance that enables leaders to effectively intervene in order to improve two types of Results:
- Objective results – productivity, profitability, and
- Subjective results – workplace environment, culture, relationships, "vibe."
At the most basic level, organizations can be understood as networks of conversations and networks of "nested", interdependent commitments.
Seeing organizations through this “lens” and learning how to more effectively make and manage commitments are the keys for building and sustaining a corporate culture of commitment and accountability.
Building a “Culture of Commitment”
Any organization – from the very largest and most complex, to the very smallest and simplest… from the very global to the very local – may be viewed in the following way: Organizations consist of human beings who, under the common roof of shared purpose, are coordinating action with each other in order to produce desired results.
How is this occurring? Through the everyday action of making and managing commitments (or promises... agreements) – and it occurs at a variety of levels and in a variety of ways.
This may be done formally or informally, orally or in writing, implicitly or explicitly, in boardrooms or bathrooms, very well or very poorly, very clearly or very sloppily… but in all organizations it is being done!
Underneath every physical process and information process is a commitment process. By paying attention to the ways your organization makes, manages and fulfills commitments (internally and externally) you bring into view an extremely powerful “leverage point” for improving both productivity and organizational “mood” (culture.)
To build a corporate culture of commitment, take the following actions within your organization:
- Convene conversations to set the new context: These Conversations for Orientation are conversations in which the importance of managing commitments is the focus; the tools below are shared and discussed.
- Declare that everyone is accountable for managing (not necessarily keeping) 100% of the commitments they make.
- Practice Effective Requests: Make sure all requests include 1) a committed speaker; 2) a committed listener; 3) clear and specific desired actions / outcomes; and 4) a clear and specific time frame.
- Practice “Valid Ways” to Respond: Eliminate “maybe” and “I’ll try” from the list of acceptable ways of responding to others’ requests at work. Require that every response ultimately include one of the following: 1) Yes (creates a commitment); 2) No (does not produce a commitment); 3) Counter-Offer (“I can’t promise Friday at noon… how about Monday at 4:00pm?” ); or 4) Commit-to-Commit (“Let me check my calendar on that, and I’ll have an answer for you by tomorrow at 9:30am.”)
- Practice Responsible Complaints (vs. complaining): This is the accountability tool – if what was promised is not delivered, everyone has full permission to make a responsible complaint directly to the person involved. Gossiping, backbiting and complaining to others are not allowed.
- Practice Sincere Apologies: In cases in which promises were not kept and/or not managed effectively.
Remember: Practice makes perfect… so be careful what you practice!