Pitch + Politics = Commitment

Sometimes I get a really strong sensation that there’s a wrinkle in the space-time continuum, or some kind of wormhole in the blogosphere that leaks surreal situations from an entirely different (but definitely nonhuman) existence paralleling ours – like this, from Harvard Business Review blogger Marshall Goldsmith on what middle managers need to do to increase employee commitment:

”• Prepare their elevator speech, which includes the two or three key points they wish to make with their co-workers.
• Communicate this message initially to people who are known to agree with this position. Managers have to strategize to increase their influence through sheer numbers and by creating allies of people with greater influence and power.
• Finally, you need to collaborate with allies. Effective collaboration doesn’t always happen organically between like-minded people. You’d be wise to follows some specific steps:

1) Prepare a case documenting the major financial gains that will be achieved when employees are enthusiastic and involved.
2) Get a sufficient number of executives on board to begin taking action. You don’t need full-scale buy-in to get started, just enough allies to create real movement.
3) Identify some initial easily achieved targets where success will energize the change process and help you gain more allies.”

Now here’s a thing. The advice looks sincere. It’s not April Fool’s Day. It’s from Harvard for goodness’ sake. But it feels utterly and completely WRONG – like skin-crawlingly wrong. What alien race does it apply to? Luis Bunuel is dead, right?

3 Comments so far


To quote a separate section from the article:

“When managers lead and manage their people effectively, their people are much more likely to be engaged ...
In practice this involves walking the talk, being transparent, communicating effectively, treating people equally, teaching, leading subordinates to increasingly excellent performance – and responding to subordinates as mature individuals who are owed fairness, the truth and recognition of their achievements.”

What’s wrong with these sentiments?  Even for the part you quoted I don’t see anything “skin-crawlingly wrong” ...

This is management, not leadership—the assumption is that the decision-making process is happening somewhere else.

Naturally, if the decision itself is wrong, then no amount of “commitment” is going to save the organisation from a massive cock-up.

If you believe that this is too much like old style command-and-control organisations, then I’d be interested to see what process you’d prefer—particularly given that sometimes a problem has no “right” solution, but a number of roughly equal options and someone needs to make a choice.

Posted on February 01, 2008 at 12:01 PM | Comment permalink

Patrick Lambe

I don’t have a problem with the section you quote, it’s pretty obvious stuff. But the section I found really really strange - and quoted above - doesn’t seem to me consistent with those sentiments - as if commitment can be produced through formulating a pitch and forming alliances. Frankly if I was an employee experiencing that kind of approach I’d have an extreme allergic reaction - I don’t think commitment can be manipulated or engineered like that. Or maybe it’s me who comes from a different planet.... in which case, I want to go home.

Posted on February 01, 2008 at 12:18 PM | Comment permalink

Matt Moore

Patrick >

So I prepare my elevator speech and tell my subordinate my 3 key points. I have worked on being sincere and spontaneous and I hope this comes across. They nod and for some reason leave the room as quickly as possible.

Why aren’t they committed goddamn it? What’s their problem?

Stephen >

Unfortunately management doesn’t get you commitment, it gets you compliance. And sometimes that’s all you want. But if you want commitment then someone has to lead.

Posted on February 01, 2008 at 02:01 PM | Comment permalink

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