9 Examples of Commitment Management
John Spacey, May 02, 2020
Commitment management is the practice of committing to high value work while avoiding overcommitting or committing to low value work. The following are the basics of commitment management.
Saying NoThe clearest way to reject low value work is to directly say no. This often isn't possible when dealing with people who have authority to assign you work. Directly saying "no" can also be problematic in a culture where everyone is expected to take a positive approach to communication.
SideliningSidelining is the process of reducing the relevance of something. For example, if someone comes up with an unintelligent idea for work that you should do, arguing about it may give the idea validity. In some cases, it is possible to dismiss the idea by ignoring it.
BacklogIn practice, most commitments are managed with a system of prioritization whereby a large number of requests are accepted in a backlog. Only those items that are prioritized become projects, requirements and action items. This requires careful communication of current priorities. If someone is pushing you to do something, put it on the backlog but make clear that it isn't a current work item. In practice, things may stay on this list forever or until people lose interest and it can be dropped. This is perfectly healthy as it doesn't require debate about rejecting ideas but allows you to always be working on your best opportunities. Never put a date to a backlog item that isn't a current priority.
Progress ReportCarefully report your current commitments and their status on a weekly basis. This report can explicitly state what you're not doing with sections titled "Out of Scope" and "Backlog."
Political CapitalBuilding relationships and delivering value to the leaders of an organization can create political capital that can be spent to sideline low value work.
Self-DirectionSelf-direction is the process of shaping your own goals, objectives and action items. This often requires managing up. The best way to avoid commitment to pointless action items is to be working on high-visibility goals that are critical to your organization.
ProductivityThose who gain a reputation for productivity and high quality work will not be questioned for pushing off action items. If you are perceived as lazy or incompetent, people will push action items on you more aggressively.
Creative TensionCreative tension is disagreement that remains civil. It is often necessary to challenge ideas and assumptions in order to avoid poorly considered action items. This requires personal resilience, influencing skills and critical thinking.
Managing ExpectationsManaging expectations is the process of communicating to avoid the expectation that you are doing things that you have never committed to do. It is very common for stakeholders to simply assume that you are working on something that they have casually mentioned. It is also common for stakeholders to imagine that your action items include things that they do not include. Managing expectations is a process of communication whereby you regularly state what is currently out-of-scope.
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