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Turning Estimates into Commitments

It's easy to make a general claim to how long something will take. Oftentimes this is exactly what a stakeholder is looking for anyway. An answer like “about five weeks” or “around the same time as the last project” are common in planning meetings, but Timm J. Esque knows the danger in experienced based assertions. Instead, Esque suggests making commitments that can be followed through on. Commitments aren't tied to past experience ““ they are about the future exclusively. This can put people on edge, as it's essentially taking away the ability to point to the past as justification. However, if done correctly, making commitments can work to gain trust even when the commitment isn't met (as long as that fact is communicated): This is a concept we call “early warning”. When someone realizes a commitment they made is in jeopardy, they need to speak up immediately. Often times another teammate can help, or the commitment can be re-negotiated so that the team remains on track (maybe the whole committed outcome wasn't needed to stay on track and the key parts of the deliverables get clarified). On teams, personal commitments are made in the context of a shared goal, so the issue at hand is not did someone miss a commitment, but what commitments will keep us on track now. There is no faster or more effective way for teams to build trust than to make, manage and meet commitments to each other on a regular basis. Esque goes on to list a few steps that a team can follow to begin using commitments over assertions, including identification of 6-8 weeks' worth of tasks, determining outcomes, identifying deliverables, and deliberately asking the owner of the task if they can commit to a specified delivery date. Following the steps laid out by Esque can help increase productivity and successful project completions.

About Matthew Kabik

Matthew Kabik is the former Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He worked at Computer Aid, Inc. from 2008 to 2014 in the Harrisburg offices, where he was a copywriter, swordsman, social media consultant, and trainer before moving into editorial.

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