So, I thought, Roscoe wanted the same kind of ironclad commitment from his software people. Seemed reasonable. What wasn't working?
"Here's the fundamental disconnect," postulated Roscoe. "In the oil field, a commitment means a 'commitment to deliver.' I think these software guys think a commitment means a 'commitment to try their best.'"
Ouch! Roscoe had ineloquently hit the nail on the head. I had often observed the failure mode he was describing. The people who had just failed to deliver would go into a long explanation of how hard they had tried, as if that would get them off the hook. In their minds, trying hard was proof that they had honorable intentions and thus should be excused.
"Commitment has two parts to it," continued Roscoe. "First there is the volition part. That means that the person will try to get the job done. Without volition, of course, it won't happen. But the second part is just as important. It's the competency part. Not only does the person have to want to deliver, he has to be able to deliver. Having the first without the second is useless from a delivery point of view.
"So, when someone makes a commitment to me," concluded Roscoe, "I assume that they both want to get it done and can get it done. Hence, they will get it done. Case closed. If they don't think they can get it done, then they shouldn't make the commitment."
I was starting to have to think more deeply about this than ever before.