Agile is about Commitment (Not Time) Management

How many of you organize your daily activities by using a calendar? Do you have back-to-back meetings, endless reports, and unproductive conversations? After spending 12 hours a day, you might be happy that you have done everything you could to fill in the day. You are exhausted. However, the feeling of victory came very short after you realize you forgot someone’s birthday and that person is the most important one in your life. Or you forgot to do the most important thing that was not on your TO-DO list but could get you the best results. One day, you woke up and you realize that you want to do something differently and meaningful. You started to hate the unproductive meetings. You complained why you should do something that you do not want to do.  You were wondering how you could use your limited resources (time, money, mind, help from others) to do something that has actual value. The answer is Agile which helps you manage your commitments. Agile is a mindset that gets feedback and delivers value iteratively. 

How does Agile help commitment management? When product owner makes requests based on shared meaning, development team negotiates the request through planning and then keeps their commitment during execution. To maintain their promises, the development team continues negotiating their promises throughout the process until product owner acceptance the promise. Therefore, it is different from time management which just fills in the request and schedule to deliver the request in a specified timeframe.

It seems easy, but it 's hard to implement the Agile commitment model as shown in the graph. Some people have difficulties to make the right requests, so the inappropriate behavior only goes on and on. Most people have problems to say NO. Therefore, they take risks not to keep their promises due to over- commitment.

When product owner can’t make proper requests, in most cases, it must do with languages (or speech acts). There are three kinds of speech acts: assertion, assessments, and declarations. The product owner will determine when to use which speech act based on context which may include individual preference, relationships, or organizational culture. For example, the image is 600 pixels (assertion). Or the image is as clear as crystal (assessment). Or I like to have no image on all subpages (declaration).

People are afraid of saying “NO” for many reasons. It may be related job security (can’s say “NO” to the boss) or dignity (fear of losing personal power), or relationship (rejecting people). In fact, when we say No (or close the door) to one thing, it may mean “YES” (or open the door) to many things. For example, if we say “NO” to many essential tasks, we can focus on the most valuable one.

The purpose of Agile Commitment Model is to establish trusts, relationships, successes, and self-esteems. It is a win-win proposition to make both parties (requesters and committers) engaged. When the promise is unfilled, it is recommended using a useful tool called responsible complaint to seek minimizes resentment, to keep healthy relationships and to sustain collaboration.  The following are steps to make a responsible complaint.

  1. Set up a SAFE context to ensure the conversation is for keeping moving on the completion of the request, not to blame.
  2. Start with the fact that refers to the previous promise.
  3. Share constructive feedback and find root causes
  4. Modify the request or to make a new one if the old one is unsanctionable
  5. Assess the level of complaint

It is not possible for us to keep 100% of the promises that we make, but it is possible to manage 100% of the commitments. The Agile Commitment Model is moving away from punishments, but effectively builds a culture of accountability by making valid requests and productive commitments.



 (Note: The Agile Commitment Model is adopted from Source: SOAR training)

 Dr. Saya Sone is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC), an Enterprise Agile Coach, a professor at VIU (Virginia International University), and Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM). Her passion is to help her clients such as CTO, CEO, Individuals, and teams to discover their new beliefs, thoughts, directions, or emotions that strengthen their capabilities to accomplish their priorities. Her happiness is to be a partner when her clients grown in their potentials.

When Dr. Sone enjoys delivering her speeches in schools, conferences, meetups, and organizations, her topics include motivations for behavioral changes, keeping balance for maximum growth, designing Lean Canvas to recognize MVP (Minimal Viable product), setting goals to achieve life potential and a variety of Agile and coaching related topics.

 Dr. Sone is a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA). She wrote two books Business Value of Agile Methods: Maximizing ROI with Just-in-Time Processes and Documentation” and Mapping Agile Practices to Project Management Challenges.

 The following is Dr. Sone’s presentation history.

  • Distinguished Toastmasters, delivered 60+ public speeches (2008-Present)
  • Drupal4Gov, Session Speaker, April 2015
  • Drupal4Gov, Lightning Talk Speaker, November 2015
  • Agile 2014, Lightning Talk Speaker, August 2014
  • Agile 2015, Lightning Talk Speaker, August 2015
  • Agile 2016, Session Speaker, July 2016
  • Meetup at Arlington, Presenter, June 2015
  • Meetup at Sterling, Presenter, September 2015
  • Meetup at Sterling, Presenter, June 2016
  • VIU Session Speaker, Faculty Development Meeting, August 2015 (Current: VIU Adjunct Faculty)
  • VIU Lunch and Learn, Speaker, June 2016
  • Agile Conference 2016, July 2016
  • DHS Agile Community of Interest (COI), March 2017
  • PMI Lunch Meeting at Sterling, April 2017
  • PMI Lunch Meeting at Reston, May 2017
  • DrupalGovConf, Session Speaker, July 2017



Outline/Structure of the Workshop

Information for Program Team:

  1. Opening – (3 minutes)
  • Self-Introduction
  • show gratitude and admire that everyone could come to the session
  • Ask audience about their role
  1. Agenda Introduction – (3 minutes)
  2. Explain why we need Agile Commitment Model (2 mins)
  3. Introduce the Model (5 minutes)
  4. Activity I – How to make a request (pair work) (5 minutes)
  • Debrief (2 minutes)
  1. Activity II – How to response to a request (pair work) (5 minutes)
  • Debrief (2 minutes)
  1. Activity III – How to make a reasonable complaint (5 minutes)
  • Debrief (2 minutes)
  1. Closing and takeaways (2 minutes)
  2. Questions and Answers (5 minutes)

Learning Outcome

The audience will learn it is OK for us not to keep 100% of the promises that we make, but it is possible to manage 100% of the commitments. The Agile Commitment Model is moving away from punishments, but effectively builds a culture of accountability by making valid requests and productive commitments.

Target Audience

Management, Product Owner, Scrum Master, Leadership, Development Team

Prerequisites for Attendees


schedule Submitted 5 years ago