The Commitment Engine: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: May 21st, 2013 by bobmorris

Commitment EngineThe Commitment Engine: Making Work Worth It
John Jantsch
Portfolio/Penguin Group (2012)

The power of a voluntary and passionate commitment to a shared purpose

Whatever their source of power (e.g. wind, weather, coal, nuclear fission), the most effective engines throughout human history share common attributes: they are well-designed and conscientiously maintained. Moreover, whenever appropriate, they have been modified. For example, steam power enabled Welch coal companies to remove water from their mines, then remove and transport coal to mills from which steel was transported to harbors at which steam-power ships delivered it to other harbors. The source of power for people is purpose.

John Jantsch makes brilliant use of the engine metaphor when explaining how to formulate a strategy that drives a system that achieve and then sustain a high level of employee engagement and commitment, whatever the size or nature of their organization may be. In other words, a workplace within which employees are what Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba characterize as “evangelists” for the given enterprise. The “commitment engine” really is a process and a system rather than a mechanism.

As he explains in the Introduction, “The businesses that enjoy commitment the most radiate and generate loyalty by awakening the sense of internal purpose first and fo0remost. These businesses then draw from a collection of definable sore characteristics both internally and externally. These same characteristics exist in every business to some extent, but the level of personal intention acts as a potent measure of the degree of commitment one company enjoys over another. These guiding characteristics come to life in the form of habits and define the business through the actions they take when they execute strategy, express culture, and create customer experiences.” Jantsch perhaps channels a comparable insight from Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye, also listed to suggest the scope of Jantsch’s coverage.

o Meet the “Four Ps” of a Fully Alive Business (Pages 12-17)
o The Characteristics of Personal Commitment (21-25)
o What Our Fears Are Here to Tell Us (34-35)
o The Business Case for Solitude (44-47)
o How to Think Differently (54-56)
o The Alchemy of Purpose (59-62)
o The Core Value Propositions (73-76)
o The Elements of Shared Commitment (97-100)
o Four Stories Every Business Must Build (104-109)
o The Cycle of Getting Important Things Done (131-134)
o Accountability Meetings (145-149)
o The Committed Handbook (158-160)
o Creating a Culture of Shared Ownership (162-168)
o Build Your Community Then Build Your Business (172-176)
o Find Your Unique Framework, and, It’s All About Building More Value (219-221)

It is no coincidence that most of the companies annually ranked among the most highly admired and best to work for are also annually ranked among the most profitable with the greatest cap value in their respective industry segment. All of them are driven by a “commitment engine” that functions effectively at all levels and in all areas of their operation. That is, “a fully alive, commitment-filled business, one in which the customer is, in effect, “a manifestation of everything the characteristics of commitment have to offer. The business becomes fully alive when a customer experiences it through the intentional acts of simplicity, inspiration, convenience, innovation, play, community, and surprise.”

If that does not describe your organization, you and your associates need to read and then re-read John Jantsch’s book. It offers most of the information, insights, and counsel most executives need to establish or nourish and strengthen one.

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