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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Language of Commitment

In this brief post I'm going to talk about the language of commitment. See, I did my first commitments there. I promised to keep this post brief. I also promised to explain this concept, language of commitment, to you.

This isn't something I invented myself. I actually came upon it around half a year ago while reading Uncle Bob's "The Clean Coder". The relevant chapter appears to be freely available even. I wasn't particularly impressed by the book but there were a few golden nuggets such as this that I picked up.

Since then I've observed it in practice. I thought it might be fun to share the concept given it's quite useful. You'll definitely have a different outlook on the world once you understand it.

Commitment - What Is It?

The language contains a lot of hidden clues about our intent. When you say you are going to do something "soon" what are you committing to? Contrast that with something like "I'll do that by tomorrow" and you get some idea of the strength of the commitment.

You can notice the same thing in a group environment. When someone says "we'll do that" who actually is meant to do something? That doesn't sound very committed, eh?

When you start to hear a lot of "soons" and "wes" you know you'll be in trouble, sooner or later. These things tend to pile up if no one takes responsibility of anything. You should take these kind of warning signs seriously.

How to Deal with Lack of Commitment?

Like in the case of illnesses you want to cure the underlying problem, not just to treat its manifestation. What causes a lack of commitment?

Lack of direction. If you don't know where you are going you aren't likely to get there. You'll need to have some concrete goal in mind. Realistic deadlines combined with a clear vision of the intended state are one way.

It is also possible that you are committing into something too abstract. In order to commit properly, you'll need to chunk it up and estimate. This way you get something concrete that's easier to deal with. Now instead of saying "soon" you can say "I'll get this part done on Monday" and so on.

In order to deal with the "we" problem, you'll need to assign and take responsibility. Again, the goals might be too abstract so chunk them up. This should give you a clearer idea of who should do what and when.


The next time you hear someone saying "soon" or "we" you'll know he probably isn't that committed. Instead of accepting this "as is", dig in and figure out what he is really saying. This might give you some surprising insight.