When my brother Bruce was an engineering manager, periodically he would discuss expectations with certain individuals on his team. Sometimes Bruce would think a team member had made a commitment, but the team member viewed Bruce’s request merely as a suggestion. To reduce ambiguity, it’s helpful to write a brief summary of each commitment that you exchange with someone else. This confirms the communication and establishes a shared expectation of accountability. A written commitment record also permits tracking actual performance against expectations. Unless I write them down, I find it easy to lose sight of promises I’ve made to others and of things I’m expecting to receive from other people. A simple table such as that in Figure 9-1 is a convenient way to document commitments.
Figure 9-1 Template for a commitment record.