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Meeting Commitments, Else Renegotiate May 5, 2010

Posted by Tim Rodgers in Management & leadership.
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I’m back after a long, unexpected break from blogging. It was never far from my mind, but I never seemed to have enough left at the end of the day or week to write a decent post. Maybe I’ve been setting the bar a little too high, but I don’t want to be just another vanity blogger. I’d like to think I’ve got something more to offer than just idle observations.

I think it was the way I was raised. When it comes to work relationships I believe in the Golden Rule: do unto others, etc. On the other hand maybe it was John Lennon: “Instant karma’s gonna get you.” Regardless, a big part of my personal value to the team is my commitment to meet commitments. I like being known as a person who delivers, who finishes the task on-time and does what I say I’m going to do. I might forget sometimes, but I don’t hope the other person is going to forget that I made a promise. To me, this idea of commitment lies at the heart of our ability to work together in teams.

That sounds great in principle, but I’m sure anyone reading this is wondering how long anyone can keep that up. There’s too much to do, circumstances change, what seemed important before isn’t important any longer, it turned out to be harder than it looked, and the dog ate my homework. And really, what’s the down side of missing a due date? After all, we don’t usually sign binding contracts with our co-workers, and all will surely be forgotten when the next crisis comes along.

Why not treat these agreements like contracts? Why not settle on the terms of the agreement up-front? I’m going to write the document, send the email, call the meeting, talk to the guy, run the process, whatever, and it’s going to be done by this date. When circumstances and priorities change as they inevitably will, why not renegotiate the terms or the due date? I know I said I would have it finished by the end of the day, but that’s not going to happen. I can get this much done by the end of the day, or I can finish it tomorrow. This is classic project management: optimizing scope, schedule and resources. Doesn’t it seem more likely that other people will meet their commitments to you?

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