DELIVERING VALUE: The Value of a Reliable Commitment

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Date: October 12, 2022

A few weeks ago a co-worker asked me if I had time to answer a few questions. “Of course.” I replied, “Give me 10 minutes to wrap something up, then we can sit down and go over your questions.” 20 minutes later I pushed back from my desk, grabbed my sketchbook and turned to my co-worker. As we began talking, I glanced at the time and realized something… I missed my commitment to her.

Building projects are a complex network of commitments. When a commitment upstream is missed, regardless of size, it trickles down to impact subsequent work. Sometimes these misses are small and only have a minor impact. Sometimes they can bring the project to a complete standstill.
Let’s look at what a Reliable Commitment is and why it is critical for delivering Value on a building project.

In the following definition of Reliable Commitment, notice the seven key underlined components.

“A promise from one party (the Performer) to another party (the Customer), where the Customer has clearly defined what is requested, the Performer has the competency (or access to) and sincerity to complete it and both parties have reached agreement on a delivery date.”

  • The Performer is the one making the commitment.
  • The Customer is the person requesting a task or product.
  • What is requested must be defined in enough detail for the Performer to know exactly what to deliver.
  • Competency refers to the Performer having sufficient ability, knowledge, skill or access to those items required to complete the task.
  • Sincerity means the Performer is able to commit of their free will, not under pressure to give “the right answer” and can realistically complete the task as request.
  • Agreement is both parties confirming the agreement. Sending an email and not receiving a response, does not count as a reliable commitment.
  • Finally a mutually confirmed delivery date needs to be established.
  • The absence of any one component will significantly reduce the chances of completion.

The seven components exist in the four steps of creating a Reliable Commitment.

Why It’s Important
Going back to the interaction with my co-worker at the beginning of this article, some might say, “It was only 10 minutes, what’s the big deal?” In reality those 10 minutes did not completely ruin my co-worker’s day, but because it was not my workflow, I had no way of knowing the actual impact. A closer look shows we made an agreement to regroup in 10 minutes. I continued what I was doing, workflow undisrupted. However, my co-worker had to either stop her work completely, or bring forward a task that she was not planning on starting at that moment, workflow disrupted.

Small misses in large enough quantity or at a critical time can cause serious waste in a process, even causing deadlines and deliverables to be missed altogether. Missed commitments upstream = missed commitments downstream.

Becoming More Reliable
Many Lean organizations and teams utilize DMAIC (Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control) as a structured problem solving technique. Below is an example of applying the Measure and Analyze steps to improve commitments on an individual level. It is understood that this method may not be effective for everyone. However, as a tactile, metrics and results oriented person, this has been an invaluable tool in my personal workflow.

Image 1 shows a two week look-ahead schedule of all tasks that have been requested of me. As items are completed and accepted, they are crossed off. If a commitment is missed, it is given a reason code to identify why. These reasons include items like Change in Priority, Resources Not Available, Interruption in Workflow and Missing Information. The reasons correlate with similar metrics many Lean Construction Teams use to track reliability.

Image 2 shows a spreadsheet where the metrics are tracked. At the end of the week the missed items are counted and divided by the total number of tags to give a Percent Plan Complete (PPC). At the time of this writing, I am averaging about a 76% completion rate over the course of the year. The key metric for improvement here is understanding why commitments were missed. If there are several weeks where “Staff Not Available” is prevalent, we can look deeper to see if projects are not staffed sufficiently. Or if “Interruptions in Workflow” becomes excessive, the demand of other tasks needs to be leveled out and made more predictable.

Image 1

Image 2

We all want to be reliable and have a reliable team. However, actual reliability is easily overlooked in most Design and Construction environments. Below are a few points to think about for implementation.

  • Does your team insist on reliable commitments of each other?
  • Track your next 15 tasks. Do you deliver when you say you will?
  • Track your next 15 requests. Do you receive the result at the time agreed?
  • Try to have all your commitments run through the four step commitment process.
  • Make sure any commitment you make has the seven key components of a Reliable Commitment.


By :
Jeremiah Sugarman, RA, LSSBB.
Wakefield Beasley & Associates
Project Manager

  1. George, Michael, David Rowlands, Mark Price and John Maxey. McGraw Hill, The Lean Six Sigma Pocket Toolbook. New York: 2005.
  2. Lean Construction Institute. LCI Lean Project Delivery Glossary. 2016.