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How Does Your Team Handle Commitment Tension?
Think of two standing commitments most of us have, or aspire to have:
To honor the commitments we make to ourselves and others
To honor the commitment to do what matters most now
Those commitments are often in tension. If we merely follow #1, we often won’t be able to do #2. And vice versa.
This came up as I was talking to Nicole (our marketing manager) this morning after she shared that she was drowning in overdues from quarters ago. There’s a lot from two quarters ago that simply isn’t relevant to what we’re currently doing and the last thing I want her to do is to worry about or focus on something irrelevant while displacing what’s on deck now.
In Team Habits, I suggest using your team’s commit-to-complete ratio as a guide for determining how ready the team is for its current deck of projects. The counter-intuitive suggestion I share is that a 100% commit-to-complete ratio is just as bad as a 50% commit-to-compete ratio.
It’s counter-intuitive because of commitment #1 above and it’s problematic because of commitment #2.
If your team is doing its best work together, you’re going to create new, better opportunities and realities than what you saw and considered quarters ago. As a team, you’ll need to be responsive, appreciative, and courageous enough to do what matters most now, which will sometimes mean honoring previous commitments (plans) and will sometimes mean reconsidering and renegotiating.
I’m obviously not suggesting that you break your word, promises, and contracts willy-nilly because they don’t suit you anymore. Flakiness isn’t a good look for individuals or teams.
But I’ve been in enough coaching and consulting scenarios where clients felt stuck and overloaded without even considering what could be renegotiated or dropped. Commitment #1 had them stuck in the past and an untenable present.
Remember that decision-making in a team setting is qualitatively different from decision-making in an individual scenario because it’s inherently a social activity. As an individual, I often can simply change my mind and deal with the consequences. As a teammate, I have to think about how that choice sets precedents for other teammates, changes how they may regard me, upsets their apple carts, and so on.
This means we have to develop a team habit of resolving the commitment tension above. My point today isn’t to tell you how to resolve this tension and, honestly, you and your team are better suited to figure it out than I am.
So, when was the last time y’all have had a conversation about how to handle this tension? When is the next time?
PS: I had planned on writing something else (Commitment #1) this morning until I talked to Nicole. After our conversation, I saw that this was a far better topic to discuss than what I had planned (Commitment #2). Luckily, I hadn’t shared what I was planning to write about or I may have decided to punt this one.