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The Commitment Plan


Disciplines > Change Management > Planning for change > The Commitment Plan

Commitment, not just communication | Stakeholder understanding | Evidence | See also


Commitment, not just communication

Many effective change methodologies have a significant focus on communication. This is a very important part of most change efforts, yet it is not the real intent, which is perhaps why many change efforts do not take it seriously. Communication can easily seem to be a lot of effort for little return.

What is really being sought in communication is that people become committed to the change collaborating with the work rather than resisting it or complying unwillingly. Taking this view changes what you do and how you do it. Communication can be a fairly one-way affair or it can be a heart-to-heart, but if it does not change commitment then it is effectively wasted.

The Commitment Plan should thus be focused on what will cause people to become and remain committed to the change. It is one thing to get them excited with yee-har visionary start. It is another to keep them with you when issues are appearing everywhere and there still is no sight of the promised land.

Stakeholder understanding

To build commitment requires a start point of understanding the stakeholders in question, both in terms of what drives them and how they may respond to the change.

Predictable change

One of the key needs that we have is to be able to predict what will happen (and hence gain a sense of control). Change often upsets this apple-cart, resulting in uncertainty, fear and resistance.

A way of building more commitment is to show that the change is an unstoppable train. Whenever something is promised, it always happens. This means being careful with promises, of course, and perhaps conservative with plans. It is far more effective in building trust and commitment to complete actions ahead of plan rather than behind plan.

The plan thus becomes the predictable island of stability in the sea of change. When people are uncertain of everything else, at least the plan is predictable. In this way, they will hold onto the plan, just as a drowning person will grasp a straw.

Evidence of change

Change and commitment includes a great deal about trust, and long-term trust is founded on evidence.

To create a real acceptance of the change, there are two common ways of building commitment. First is the impact method, where large amounts of change are bundled together to show how much has changed. Second is the dripping-tap method, where a steady stream of evidence is used to keep the change up-front and visible.

The impact method is often used early on, with a razz-a-ma-tazz big-bang kickoff. The problem with this is that it sets excessive expectations which, when they are not delivered, result in cynicism and a nose-dive in commitment.

The dripping-tap method starts more slowly, but has a more certain progress, with regular news from the front of changes that have happened and planned actions taken on track. It works through gradually building commitment with clear evidence rather than trying to grab it all at once. This plays more to how most people give commitment, not freely and instantly, but carefully and only after there is clear and repeatable evidence.

See also

Evidence principle, Consistency principle

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