To coordinate work across different business units, executives should think of the organization as a nexus of commitments, or personal promises between employees, that must be actively managed.
A company’s installed business processes are typically designed to execute routine activities. As such, they can have great difficulty handling novel initiatives, particularly when important work needs to be coordinated across different business units. Such cases are often better handled by a new framework that views the organization as a nexus of personal promises that employees make to each other.
As defined by the authors, a “commitment” is a promise made by a performer to satisfy the concerns of a customer within the organization. “Customer” and “performer” refer simply to roles: An individual acts as a customer when making a request, and a performer when fulfilling a request. In committing to a customer, a performer promises to fulfill the customer’s “conditions of satisfaction,” that is, the specific terms (such as cost, timing and quality) required to meet the customer’s needs. In general, the most powerful commitments are public, active, voluntary, explicit and motivated. Moreover, effective commitments tend to arise out of ongoing discussions between the customer and performer that proceed through four basic steps — preparation, negotiation, execution and acknowledgment.