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Is Commitment a Good Thing or Not?

Commitment. Only a few other words carry the same weight as that one. When individuals commit to something, they are essentially agreeing to a set of unspoken presidents which is a pretty big deal. Similarly, when teams commit to projects, essentially they are saying that “you can count on us to accomplish what we have set out on, no matter what.” But when it comes to traditional vs. agile marketing there’s a debate as to which philosophy allows teams to be more committed.

According to a recent article from the project management blog, the PM Hut, Bob Galen points out that theirs is a perceived difference between in how committed teams are in Waterfall vs. Agile methods.

We are all familiar with the traditional Waterfall cycle, yes? Well just in case, here’s a quick refresher. Waterfall is a classically linear and sequential approach, where each stage is assigned to a separate team to ensure greater project and deadline control. Traditionally, the marketing calendar is planned out for an entire year so there’s a lot of heavy lifting upfront. Galen points out that waterfall teams plan their execution out to exact details. They outline goals, document the necessary requirements and deliverables for the entire marketing year, so that, “when the project begins they’re in a clear position to fully commit to the project,” writes Galen. “They’re committed to the date, to the scope, and to the costs they’ve estimated. And if there’s any ‘negative discovery’ along the way, the team will somehow figure out how to ‘suck it up’, working harder and longer to meet their ‘commitment,’” points out Galen. You’ll often hear traditional managers driving this type of behavior – constantly reminding their teams to work harder not smarter.

To the un-indoctrinated or inexperienced, dealing with agile teams can be frustrating. There’s the view that agile teams lack commitment. According to Galen, “This comes from the basic tenet that teams commit to projects incrementally – as they gain more understanding of the work by implementing it in small chunks. That teams narrow in on their delivery target as they gain more understanding and collaborate with their customer. That teams can commit when they’ve made some progress and understand their delivery velocity.” It’s not that agile teams lack commitment; it’s just that they show it differently. Instead of committing to a year or even six month marketing calendar, agile teams focus on “incremental delivery and incremental commitment,” writes Galen.

So as you can see, both teams are equally committed to their respective projects, yet teams often times struggle with achieving their goals. I believe that the problem is not because one side is more “committed” than another. The problem is the environment where these teams work. Commitment doesn’t come from a methodology or a planning process. It is an amalgamation of other factors. Galen points out that commitment is when teams decided to trust each other and foster an open collaborative environment. Teams commit to accomplishing exciting and meaningful work, to have solid leaders who trust them to do their jobs, and to providing total honestly and real-time transparency. That, according to Galen, is what commitment is all about. So before completely overhauling your project management methods, take a look and see if you’ve developed a culture for commitment first.

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