How can I be sure my team is really committing to the schedule we've proposed?

How can I emphasize to my team that we are truly committing to this project plan and schedule, so I can be sure no one is holding back possible risks?
The first step -- getting real commitment -- is accomplished by the process of project planning. People have to be involved along the way; to understand the goals, participate in estimates, help make tradeoff recommendations. Otherwise, your team members will inevitably feel like a schedule was stuffed down their throats. To get this commitment and avoid "not my schedule" issues, see the answers to other questions in this section concerning the plan, how it's created, how it's communicated, and so on.

To emphasize commitment across the team once we have a plan worked out, we recommend doing a team commitment meeting. This can be a separate meeting or part of a regular team meeting, but either it should be emphasized as an important, special meeting or segment.

In a commitment meeting you do the following:
  • Bring the Vision or Charter out and point out that THIS is what we've committed to.
    "Here's the final charter, and how we're going to meet it, and the plan for doing so. We've all been involved in the review. This meeting is where we acknowledge that we've all participated, and that this is how we're going forward."
  • Emphasize the Vision or Charter, and the accompanying Plan, as a "contract" between the team, sponsor, and stakeholders. Unlike agreements or handshakes, contracts cannot be changed ad hoc without consideration.
    "From here on out, if somebody sees the need to change something that would affect the Charter, or any of the goals we have agreed to such as schedule or budget, we won't do it capriciously. We will come back to the team with the change request."
  • Get public acknowledgement of commitment from each person in the room.
    "In this meeting we're asking people to publicly say "Yes, I'm in," with the added weight that a public commitment brings"

If you anticipate problems from anyone as you approach this meeting -- anyone who would NOT be willing to make a public commitment -- you know your planning process is not yet complete.

  • Watch for resistance during the planning process, and deal with the underlying concerns as they arise.
  • As you come to the commitment point, make the rounds ahead of the meeting to work out any final barriers to getting a true commitment.

This communication and syncing should be part of your process once you think you're done with planning. This is how you work out the kinks and be sure everyone is truly on board. Make sure nobody is venting to you about why it's not doable -- or even worse, harboring some private reservations they haven't shared with you -- and resolve those issues before the commitment meeting!

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