Making people honor commitments is a complex problem.
Asking them to provide some level of output consistently is difficult.
Forcing someone to work is unacceptable. I hope you agree on that.
So, what can you do?
In this article, I will get through three approaches you can take.
This might make YOU reconsider the value of pushing too hard.
Can you relate?
You come to the office in the morning. As usual – when the working day starts.
You see a group of people who are working already. They come earlier than you do.
You see some people taking their morning coffee. They are in the office earlier, but they are kicking the day off yet.
One or two persons are late.
Someone is late for a half a day.
Your project team doesn’t work same hours. Moreover, they don’t spend time equally efficient.
But here is the catch:
They provide a different amount of value. Quite often the amount of value doesn’t correlate with time spent.
This should make you wonder:
“Should I force people to sit 8 hours in the office?”
Request Consistent Daily Commitment
That is a straightforward one.
People come to an office from 9 to 5. So, every day each person should spend 6–8 hours working.
Or at least pretend to be working.
There is only one direct way to control this kind of commitments. You need to watch a person sitting at his or her table.
How does that sound?
“Hey, Peter, you need to give us eight hours of good work every day. OK, I understand that efficiently you can do about six per day. So, if you came late, you need to leave late and cover the required hours…”
Here is the problem:
Peter will soon understand that there is no need to go beyond of duty.
The only way to show you are a good worker is to show up in time. Sit in front of a manager. That is it.
Peter feels obliged to give you the highest estimates he can prove.
He does not see a direct correlation between his hours and rewards.
By the way, you can’t tell the difference either.
Are there any benefits of such approach?
It is okay if your team is billed per hour and it’s the only measure of progress.
You work under times and material contract. You have much work to do. You work, you make progress, everyone’s happy.
But what if…
Let People Define a Scope Based Commitment
Think for a moment about estimation process.
Some things take a specific amount of time. Some standard and everyday tasks.
However, here is the trick:
Usually, we do unique work, with different people, different circumstances.
If done correctly, your team analyzes the work at hand and provides estimates.
(You may also conduct Risk Management and add reserves for some tasks.)
Then, you show it to stakeholders.
If estimation looks reasonable, your clients will approve that. You will start working.
Now, we have Peter.
He has several tasks. One of them was estimated for ten days.
He finishes it in 7 days. He did a good job! Well done!
If everything goes well do you mind him slack a bit during next one or two days?
Are there any benefits pushing the project to finish earlier?
Or is it you who feels unsure in your own project plan? So, you want him to take the next task as soon as possible.
“Just in case something happens…”
Here is a truth:
In a healthy and engaged team, it is very uncomfortable to slack too much. People work hard around you. Most probably, some of them helped you several times. You own them that much.
So, if Peter decides to “pretend” working for those three days something’s wrong with your leadership.
Here is how it works:
- Peter makes estimates himself.
- He commits to finish the work within given timeline.
- Peter controls his own work.
- He bears responsibility for delivering the piece of project scope.
- Peter works as many hours as he wants. It goes both ways – if he feels he needs more time he puts more hours.
Of course, there still should be close communication. Moreover, amendments can be made.
Mutually beneficial relationships are still the priority.
Allow Value Based Commitment
Now let’s take a step further.
Avoid giving tasks and assignments.
You have a project scope. You have a pull of tasks and activities.
Let project team members select the work they want.
You need to push them a bit:
- Show that you trust them.
- Praise specific expertise.
- Sell the impact each task has.
- Make a challenge out of general work.
There are many ways you can make people believe they are unique.
That, for example, Peter is the only one suitable for the job.
If someone doesn’t have experience or expertise, then he or she has something to strive for.
Here is what you need to understand:
People define scope and estimates on their own. They bare the responsibility. It was their professional opinion.
They selected the tasks they will enjoy doing. Even if it is a pull of not very interesting ones.
So, they can’t lay blame on someone’s poor estimates. They have little arguments to complain about given work. Moreover, their professional dignity is at stake.
Add up this little secret:
You don’t sit idle. You don’t wait for them to fail or succeed.
You help them to finish in-time. Make reserves. Allow some space for mistakes. Remove impediments for them. Let them focus on the task at hand.
That is not all.
You can now stack up other motivators:
- Career development roadmap
- Transparent rewards system
- Subject matter expert status
- Professional community
Your personal and professional insecurities can stand in the way of making people honor commitments.
To make them work harder, you need to give them a little more trust and freedom.
Nevertheless, don’t assume that you can influence any person around you. Some people will not be interested in working by default.
You need to be ready to fire or remove people from your project.
Also, keep in mind the required efforts. Quite often smaller projects will not allow building value-based commitments.