Does Your Organization Have a Commitment Problem?

Does Your Organization Have a Commitment Problem?

Organizational commitment to a CEO’s strategy is a key factor in how successful that strategy will be. How far employees at all levels will go to execute the strategy — what we call their “strategic commitment” – doesn’t just make the difference between stellar and mediocre results – it can be the deciding factor in producing any results at all. But in many organizations, such commitment is often lacking, and executives don’t even know it. When revenue and profits are suffering, these managers rarely look to a deficiency in commitment as the culprit.

As a result, many CEOs avoid dealing with commitment problems simply because they assume they don’t have one. They believe that if people are doing their jobs without interruption and abiding by organizational rules and procedures, everything is fine. But this point of view mistakes compliance for commitment. Most likely they haven’t had direct experience of how robust commitment produces extraordinary levels of personal effort, investment, engagement and contribution.

Why then are so many CEOs blind to commitment problems in their organizations? Many are simply out of touch with the sentiments of employees — even their direct reports. When they do sense morale problems, they often avoid them, worried that they reflect poorly on their leadership. They sugarcoat situations to preserve their self-image. Further, they may not feel competent at addressing such commitment problems, believing this is the work of their HR department.

But in our experience, it doesn’t have to be this way. We have seen that getting employees to embrace and adopt a strategy is the ultimate factor in whether that strategy will succeed according to plan. And despite what some may think, every CEO and his management team possess the ability to generate substantial levels of commitment – even in the most dire of circumstances.

The first step is probably the hardest and most important: being brutally honest about the extent of the commitment problem. Only when leaders are willing to admit the level of apathy or dissension – and only when they recognize the impact of it – can they hope to reverse things.

Confronting the internal politics, silos and trust issues can be a grueling and uncomfortable exercise for the CEO and his team. People have become accustomed to workplace environments where pretending, protecting and “covering your ass” are the norm. In fact, they are so used to such toxic workplaces that they need an enormous amount of courage to try to reverse it.

However, when we see the CEO and his team undertake this task with sincerity and conviction, it has always elevated their levels of cohesion, trust and communication. In every case, it has given the CEO and all employees much greater hope, confidence and commitment.

Founder and President of Quantum Performance Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in generating total alignment and engagement in organizations.

His work has encompassed a broad range of industries including banking, telecommunications, manufacturing, entertainment, real estate, retail, startups and non-profits.

6 replies
  1. Katie
    Katie says:

    Nice post. To remain competitive in the face of competitive business pressures, employee commitment is absolutely crucial. This reality is applicable to all organizations but is of particular importance to small/medium sized organizations.

  2. paludetti
    paludetti says:

    In many organizations there is a growing commitment gap – a widening split between the expectations of employers and what workers are prepared to do. There are a number of reasons for this erosion of employee commitment; the most common one being a failure of management in some way or another. I like how you have positioned this in the article – you’re dead on, I see it everyday as a business coach.

  3. Nikki
    Nikki says:

    maybe the failure of commitment, isn’t commitment itself but the values behind the strategic goals of the organisation. Every person has a set of values and some are felt more strongly than others. So if the values of the organisation and that of the individuals diverge too much all the good leadership in hell will not get the employees towing a commitment line. They may be just staying put because of economic reasons.

    Having worked for 34 years in IT this is a little regarded aspect of an employees make-up past the recruitment post. Isn’t this why companies like GOOGLE have Mission statements that say “Do no evil” and IBM is racing down a “Green” technology path. They need to have their staff on board and to truly represent triple bottom line vision.

    Of course this is not to discount the need for cash flow along with how disenfranchised employees can feel if they are passed over for promotion, their salaries have flat lined for 5 years in a row and leadership fails in its reward mechanisms by cancelling Christmas.

  4. Milan Moravec
    Milan Moravec says:

    Employee loyalty is more than employee loyalty. Business and the public sector are into a phase of creative disassembly where reinvention and adjustments are constant. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are being shed by United Technologies, GE, Chevron, Sam’s Club, Wells Fargo Bank, HP, Starbucks etc. and the state, counties and cities. Even solid world class institutions like the University of California Berkeley under the leadership of Chancellor Birgeneau & Provost Breslauer are firing staff, faculty and part-time lecturers. Yet many employees, professionals and faculty cling to old assumptions about one of the most critical relationship of all: the implied, unwritten contract between employer and employee.
    Until recently, loyalty was the cornerstone of that relationship. Employers promised job security and a steady progress up the hierarchy in return for employees fitting in, performing in prescribed ways and sticking around. Longevity was a sign of employeer-employee relations; turnover was a sign of dysfunction. None of these assumptions apply today. Organizations can no longer guarantee employment and lifetime careers, even if they want to.
    Organizations that paralyzed themselves with an attachment to “success brings success’ rather than “success brings failure’ are now forced to break the implied contract with employees – a contract nurtured by management that the future can be controlled.
    Jettisoned employees are finding that the hard won knowledge, skills and capabilities earned while being loyal are no longer valuable in the employment market place.
    What kind of a contract can employers and employees make with each other? The central idea is both simple and powerful: the job or position is a shared situation. Employers and employees face market and financial conditions together, and the longevity of the partnership depends on how well the for-profit or not-for-profit continues to meet the needs of customers and constituencies. Neither employer nor employee has a future obligation to the other. Organizations train people. Employees develop the kind of security they really need – skills, knowledge and capabilities that enhance future employability.
    The partnership can be dissolved without either party considering the other a traitor..


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