Shifting from Control Management to Commitment Management

Shifting from Control Management to Commitment Management

A previous Continuous Improvement article, Paradigm Shifts to A World-Class Organization: Shift 1, kicked off a discussion on changes or shifts from traditional business standards and perspectives.

The second part in the Shift series discusses actions that have radically improved businesses, streamlined expenses and taken enterprises to the next level of performance. This is the level in which world-class organizations compete, where companies excel in their business and are constantly re-inventing themselves in the wake of change.

The nature of our work and our work environment is changing rapidly. The repetitive, mundane set of activities that used to constitute our work life is fast disappearing. There used to be a lot of command-and-control involved in these activities, with production targets and deadlines to be met in fulfilling customer orders. The focus was more on the targets than in the series of activities that resulted in the end-product.

Everyone manages his or her own activity, process, or string of activities. Hence, the ability to control that activity or process well (or not so well) is a reflection of his or her management ability.

For distributors, a number of the activities are automatically done through acquired skills or experience. The trouble is control is a good thing as it relates to production parameters. However, other areas may be stifled by control, such as acting thoughtfully, understanding implications downstream of a process, or coming up with improvement ideas. There is always a better way of doing things.

In today’s workplace, the emphasis is on thinking of more efficient ways to get things done, for example designing new products or initiating action to improve a delivery mechanism.

All this is done with significantly less control then before. This is a consequence of “softer” performance measures in the workplace – it is not just about production targets. Competition has raised the stakes in the marketplace as distributors compete for customer orders and where the reward (customer orders) goes to those who exhibit original thinking, customized responsiveness, personalized attention, good after-sales service and the like.

Transitioning from control to commitment emerges as a result of shared values, employee participation, involvement in decision-making, pooling knowledge and an atmosphere of mutual trust and cooperation.

High control often induces fear, reduces risk-taking, and stifles creation and initiative. In other words, a high degree of control destroys the very performance that is key in today’s marketplace. Eliminating fear and unnecessary control (such as having one form-approval instead of three, or offering a realistic threshold on amounts a branch manager can sign-off on), increases commitment, inspires trust and confidence, fosters creativity and encourages risk-taking.

This kind of transition – from control to commitment – usually emerges as a result of shared values, employee participation and involvement in decision-making, pooling knowledge about the customer base and an atmosphere of mutual trust and cooperation.

It is one thing to say that “our company is focused on commitment” and quite another for all the various entities that make up the company to come together in a unified spirit of genuine cooperation. Many entities fail to walk the talk.

From the employee-end of the spectrum, what is needed is an increased level of commitment to the job or activity. Taking ownership of the job should be Priority One for everyone.

Making a commitment to thinking through the impact of our actions (and finding a better way of doing them) is the first step in doing things differently. By engaging in this kind of self-reproach exercise, true innovation can finally emerge.

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