Let me be honest with you: I did that before, and might continue doing it. No promise to let go, but I wanted to share with you my thoughts on over-commitment as I experience it. This will enable me tell moments of truth, and help control over-commitments, or avoid them altogether.
When over-committing, you simply make a promise to yourself or others to deliver a task. You end up with either no delivery, or partial delivery in the best scenario. Hence, you upset the other party who could be your wife, father, mother, manager, customers, partners, or even yourself. You don’t think I’m insane if I promise myself, right?!
Over-commitment is not just a one-time thing. It’s more of a habit that one builds over time. I have examined myself (that’s not insanity at all!) and sometimes others, and in my opinion, I see over-commitment is caused by either of the following:
- Over-excitement that leads to incautious or blind commitments
- Sense of under-performance that leads to cautious commitments for up-leveling performance.
In both cases, results are the same: commitments that never get achieved. I will share with you the internal workings of both cases as others and myself experience them. That’s not going to be scientific at all, though.
Over-excitement can lead to over-commitment
You meet a customer, and deep dive into discussions on how your company’s solutions can meet their requirements. You’re passionate about the solutions your company offers, and you feel the value these solutions can offer your customer. That’s a perfect context for over excitement! To move things forward, a need for actions on both parties are apparent. Because of the over-excitement state you are in, you start putting actions on yourself (that’s a good thing), and sometimes you force yourself to commit on things you don’t control, or things you cannot deliver on time. You’re in a trap of “over-commitment”, where you get caught up on a pile of commitments that you may not be able to deliver. All that is caused by the moment that blinded you from taking into considerations the available time and resources, and the things you or others control.
Sense of under-performance can lead to over-commitment, too
Another internal working that causes over-commitment is when you have a sense of under-performance. Weird, huh? It’s true, cause when you are under-performing (or feeling just that), you may feel low, and sometimes depressed. If you try to get yourself out of that mood, you might tend to pressure yourself with commitments to unleash it and break through the depression. This is where over-commitment happens, and hence under-delivery is probable!
To be honest with you, that sometimes worked for me, but not always though. It happened once with me when I was having that sense of under-performance. On the same time, we were negotiating a proof of a technology to one of our key customers. This customer happened to have varying and complex requirements which needed the engagement of an external party to deliver the proof on time. There was a challenge though. the customer’s requirements could change as it’s more of discovery than predefined set of requirements. Also, we need to manage satisfaction to win in a competitive environment. With all that in mind, I have decided to step in and deliver the proof myself, and avoid the engagement of the external party because of the fluid nature of this proof. This was of course on the expense of my time on other angles, but we were able to adapt as we go and deliver the proof successfully. We also were able to discover more opportunities to help the customer and position our technologies right. This was an exception to over-commitment. I remember I did the same with another customer, but results were not what we planned to have.
To conclude, I want to emphasize the importance of cautious decision on taking up commitments. Measuring your abilities and available resources should be in the equation that leads to committing on a task. Pay extra attention in states of over-excitement and sense of under-performance cause they may lead you to short or absent delivery of what you have committed on.