Saturday, January 18, 2014

Commit... and deliver!

I was in a meeting earlier this week, and as a result, did some reflection on what it means to make a commitment, then follow through until your commitment has been fulfilled.

Let me give a little personal background.  I grew up in a traditional home with two parents, and two other siblings.  My mother was a fabulous and nurturing stay at home mother. My father worked two jobs to put food on the table.  He often used "we'll see" if he wasn't sure he could deliver on a commitment.  However, when he did commit to anything, he'd move mountains to fulfill his promises. We had a few basic rules in our family, and I've tried my best to follow them.
  1. Follow the golden rule. Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you.
  2. Finish you plate, there's kids starving that aren't so lucky... and no, you can't send your plate to them, so don't ask again.
  3. Nothing is better than family and close friends... you can always count on them for a commitment.
  4. Don't be afraid to ask for help, and prepare to help when asked.
  5. Only say I love you if you really mean it... otherwise it becomes watered down.
  6. Only commit to something that you can... and intend to deliver.  Don't disappoint someone who asks for assistance or needs help.  A commitment is a as close to a promise as you can get... so only make them when you plan to deliver results.
  7. Don't expect recognition or compensation for being kind, or doing the right thing.
  8. Don't be a drain on society, we have enough leaches.
  9. An honest day's pay deserves an honest day's work.
  10. You earn more respect for what you do with your commitments, words are cheap... it's action that delivers results.
I think it'd be a better world if everyone followed the same simple rules. I've tried to follow the same philosophy.  If I say I will commit to something, I'll do my absolute best to make sure that my commitments get fulfilled.  I believe in order to earn respect, it's important to follow-through on your commitments.  This includes earning the respect of others, as well as gaining self-respect.

I believe that many projects fail because of a lack of commitment.  This is in addition to a number of other reasons such as...
  1. A failure to define a clear objective.
  2. A failure to define and measure realistic milestones and dates.
  3. A failure to define clear roles for the team.
  4. A failure to realize that time is money.
  5. Assumptions that the work will always be someone else's responsibility.
  6. A lack of meeting agendas, and assignment of follow-up tasks.
  7. A failure to to properly scope a project.
  8. A lack of funding, or realistic understanding of the budget.
First and foremost, without a commitment, everything else is irrelevant.  A successful project requires a committed team.  I'd much prefer for someone to tell me that they cannot commit due to other obligations, or they can only provide a few hours a week... than for them to fail to deliver on commitments.  I think there is a basic premise that people need to understand for what it means to be committed.  I propose the issue isn't with commitment, we have an issue with follow-through. A real commitment is as important to the project as it is to a marriage.  Maybe that's why our divorce rate is so high.

OK, a few words about some of the other items in my list.  I'm repeatedly amazed by how many people consider wages "sunk costs" that don't require accountability.  If you have 10 people in a room that average $40 per hour with benefits, and you have a four hour meeting... you're project just absorbed $1,600.  If you schedule these every week for a ten week project.  Your cost in meeting time is $16,000... and that's before you account for any work outside of the meetings, or other project costs.  You'll see many other posts in this blog on other topics like objectives (project meandering), milestones (no measurement), scope (what are we here for?), and from a lack of knowledge of budge realities (e.g. shopping for a Rolls Royce when they have a Yaris budget).

So, if you want to be successful, you have to hold others accountable... and be accountable yourself.  Know what you want... measure your progress, and deliver results.