The Commitment Cycle

Diagram of the commitment cycle to help retain the understanding of the cycle.

The commitment cycle outlined below is straightforward, even obvious.  Unfortunately, however, it is rarely followed and commitments are weak or non-existent most of the time.  

When asking someone to do something for us, in other words, when delegating a task, often there’s a quick conversation followed by an interjection, such as OK? This is often not a question per se, but an indication that the request has finalized and that I, the person who is requesting the task, have nothing else to say and expect a yes.

The fact is, requests are often very poorly articulated.  Clear agreements are replaced with statements from performers like “I’ll try my best” or “I’ll put a top priority on this”.  Sometimes tasks are just “assigned” without any commentary at all from the performer as to their ability to perform.  

Often dialog breaks down during execution, especially when things go wrong.  Deadlines slip without acknowledgment and renegotiation.  Deliveries are “slid” in without announcement and acknowledgements are rare.  

A lack of attention to the four stages of a commitment cycle results in enormous waste in an organization’s productivity.  Even more important, interpersonal relations are strained and trust declines.

These phases can be interpreted as general steps in a goal-setting or project management process. In this context, the phases can be described as follows:

  1. Preparation: This phase involves understanding the context, setting objectives, and gathering necessary resources. Individuals or teams must identify the problem they aim to solve or the goal they want to achieve. They must also assess the available resources, constraints, and potential challenges.
  2. Negotiation: In this stage, individuals or teams engage in discussions to reach a consensus on various aspects of the project, such as goals, roles, and responsibilities. This phase involves clarifying expectations, reaching agreements, and ensuring that everyone is aligned with the project’s objectives.
  3. Execution: In the execution phase, individuals or teams work together to carry out the agreed-upon plan. They implement strategies, allocate resources, and monitor progress, making adjustments as needed to stay on track. Communication and collaboration are essential to overcoming obstacles and ensuring success.
  4. Assessment (or Acknowledgment): The final phase involves evaluating the project’s outcomes, reflecting on successes and areas for improvement, and acknowledging the efforts and achievements of individuals or teams. This stage is crucial for learning, growth, and celebrating accomplishments.

When both parties take a moment to understand the request and negotiate delivery, there’s more adherence, commitment and possibility for successful delivery. This means not only the performer needs to work, but also the requestor. The table below gives some insight on the four stages of the commitment cycle

If you want something more practical, to formalize the engagement between each stage, you can use the PEP tools as per below.

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