Promise-based management: Crafting and measuring commitments that matter
Promises are personal. They build trust.
August 20, 2018

Promises are personal. They build trust. When a person makes a promise they usually feel a social commitment to stay true to their promises, especially if they are being held accountable. If you promise a friend you’ll take care of their pet while they are on vacation and you ignore the responsibility, you damage your friendship and perhaps even your reputation.

Similarly,  if you make a promise to your colleague that you’ll deliver training resources to a client by Friday and you fall short, you’ll probably feel disappointed in yourself and now you have to answer to your boss and face potential consequences.

Promises shouldn't be limited to relationships outside of the workplace. Making personal promises fosters employee engagement, strengthens organisational structures and can create a collaborative process among teams. Promise-Based Management is a proven method that gives organisations the ability to manage promises in a systematic way.

Want to learn to incorporate this management system in your organisation? Read on.

Effective Teams Make Promises

Some of the thought leaders behind Promise-Based Management, Donald Sull and Charles Spinosa, explain in Harvard Business Review, 'At its heart, every company is a dynamic network of promises. Employees up and down the corporate hierarchy make pledges to one another — the typical management by objectives.'

Sull and Spinosa were onto something that spurred a movement in businesses worldwide.

While managing by objectives or tasks can be effective, incorporating Social Discipline and a layer of commitment turns a rote task into a powerful vow. Promises combined with Social Discipline creates a transparent work environment lined with individual accountability. Teams that are fueled by measurable promises are more effective at getting things done.

The Effect of Social Discipline

Nearly every professional can explain the negative effects of poorly crafted commitments in the workplace. Employee engagement suffers and morale diminishes, then communication falls by the wayside. New business opportunities never take off and critical initiatives stall. Left unattended, the effects of low employee engagement and motivation can lead to long-term company failure.

Social Discipline is a powerful psychological concept that blends meeting expectations, social persuasion and accountability with individual responsibilities to produce an intended outcome. A key characteristic of Social Discipline involves making binding commitments to deliver on one's promises in a transparent atmosphere.

Fulfilling promises and providing fair and equal contributions across the entire team are essential to utilising Social Discipline in a business environment. When team members perceive their colleagues and superiors are pulling their weight, they are more apt to engage and increase their own productivity levels. Similar to a domino effect, this can raise motivation and morale across the entire organisation.

Suppose a team member knows he should respond to an important customer request by the end of the week. He makes a private promise to himself that he will take action. What are the chances he will fulfill the commitment without recording it somewhere or being held accountable? When goals are kept private, communication suffers. Deadlines pass and iterative conversations in long, unproductive meetings ensue because no one is on the same page.

However, what happens when promises are made in a transparent space where every team member can see them? The Social Discipline behind Promise-Based Management generates an elevated sense of awareness. When that same team member submits their goal to the entire group, it becomes critically important to reach the goal so he doesn't let the team down and he can protect his reputation.

Employee Engagement and Promise-Based Management

Engaged employees are the lifeblood of any organisation. Companies with high employee engagement are proven to reap the benefits of low turnover, increased customer satisfaction, revenue growth and superior employee performance.

Humans have a natural need to connect with others. Just as customers seek an emotional connection from the companies they buy products from, employees seek meaningful communication from their colleagues. The most successful companies are filled with engaged employees who see their teams as a group of people who stay true to their promises and honor their commitments.

Companies that depend on Social Discipline to keep their promises to one another experience significant improvement in employee engagement. A sense of community is created around reaching individual goals in a highly visible team environment where individual contributions are recognised. Employees become more personally invested in the company's mission. Morale and motivation recover. A reliable workforce emerges.

The Power of a Good Promise

The fundamental question behind Promise-Based Management is: 'How do I make a good promise?' Promise-Based Management is based on the pillar of intentional, thoughtful promises. Every good promise has the opportunity to be kept when the right attitude and resources are in place.

Just as the best ideas are useless without execution, the best promises are futile without monitored accountability and progress reports. Entrepreneurial energies are wasted when ideas never turn into trackable goals and action items. Employees in every layer of the organisation from senior executives to entry-level assistants must know how to craft good promises they are capable of achieving.

Effective promises should be public, active, voluntary, explicit and mission-based. In many traditional organisations, managers set goals and tasks for their direct reports. They may or may not have a due date. The direct report may not fully understand what their supervisor is asking for and may feel embarrassed to ask for fear for looking incompetent.

Imagine the inverse of this situation. A department has one meeting about a group project and determines a target. Goals are defined and tasks are distributed across team members. Only then are goals formally assigned — in the form of a promise by the employee who fully understands their responsibility for each goal. The promises are then documented in a space where everyone can view individual and group progress in real-time, reducing or removing the need for so many status meetings.

Implementing Promise-Based Management: Making it Simple

 Implementing Promise-Based Management into your organisation doesn't have to be a complex process. Coordinating commitments in a systematic way with the right software can make creating a dynamic network of effective promises simple, and maybe even fun.

With Promise-Based Management, a lofty, long-term goal can be made manageable when broken down into agile, short-term goals in a transparent setting. Organisational agility improves when team members communicate about promises with clear requests and are able to adapt to changing priorities and industry trends.

Knowing how to make good promises is great. But if you want to create the most reliable workforce, you need to create a collaborative process with the right software program to communicate and collaborate about those promises.

There's no shortage of collaboration and task management tools available for chatting about goals. The key is to take it a step further with software that also allows teams to track, measure and manage their promises.

Samewave allows teams real-time access to progress reports on individual tasks and targets, reducing and sometimes even removing the need for meetings. We know that meetings will never disappear from the workplace, but with when teams are on the same page, meetings become shorter, less frequent and more productive.

Samewave's simple user interface, straightforward communication tools and automatic reporting features make setting and tracking good promises in one central place easy. Measure personal performance with real-time ratings so you can take action on who needs help and reward those who are crushing it.

Learn more about how you can incorporate Promise-Based Management into your organisation to improve employee engagement, increase productivity and align your teams with your mission. Get your team on the Samewave today, for free.

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