A few years ago I saw a business formula stating: Quality + Commitment

Result. Furthermore, in the discussion, the point was developed that while quality of effort and direction were important, what mattered most was the commitment of those with the responsibility to carry out the decision, assignment, task, etc., to the extent of maybe 75 percent or 80 percent. Quality is the topic of another article and by itself may be the best source of commitment. The focus of this article for the small business operator is the commitment of those who work in your organization on a daily basis.

Commitment is sustained motivation. In business terms, an employee who is committed to the organization, management, decisions, quality work, etc., is able to exceed or obtain needed performance and is able to work through the challenges or problems of normal worklife without giving up or turning to apathy or mediocrity. We see those people in our organizations and they seem to inspire others. The challenge is to hire and keep these people in the majority at our places of business.I once worked for a large company in another state that was very bound down in rules, restrictions and grievances and was struggling to maintain profitability. Production employees would come to work in the morning at a slow, leisurely pace with a sullen or empty look on their faces. They would gradually get their coffee, wander to the tool bin and eventually get to their work station about 15 or 20 minutes after the designated starting time. Work during the shift was at a measured pace and management spent considerable time monitoring lunches, breaks, trips to the restroom and trying to get people to produce at a reasonable level of output. No one wanted to be responsible for anything or to spend any extra effort on problem-solving or problem avoidance.

It was totally different at the end of the shift. The same slow, sullen employees would begin cleaning up and getting ready to leave about 20 or 30 minutes before shift end. They would often be found lining up at the time clock. The instant the shift ended, these same people, who had been struggling to stay awake all day, now came alive. If you dared to stand in front of the exit door you were taking your life in your hands. Plant nurses stood at the ready for trample victims. These employees, all of a sudden, could be seen running to their cars or trucks in the parking lot. They were also observed to be smiling or laughing with co-workers. These same people would return to their communities to be responsible leaders and volunteers. What a transformation!

A few years later, I had the opportunity to work with another large multinational company with a reputation for excellence in management as well as marketing and products. I noticed, very quickly, a difference in the demeanor and work pace of the employees. People would come to work early to learn what had happened on the previous shift. Some would hang around at the end of the work period to make sure that problems were taken care of and fully communicated. Occasionally, warnings had to be issued for running to get to a production line problem. What was the difference? People at the first company started out with the same energy as the employees at the second company, but over time they would slow down, give up and work just enough to keep their jobs. The companies also had the same tendencies. The first company has continued to struggle with sales and the work force is now a third of what it was. The second company continues to lead in the marketplace and is cited often for excellent management practices.

I observed the following that may be useful to those who may be interested in having their companies be growing and vibrant for many years to come:

First, organization - ideas for improvement were not accepted or encouraged from those doing the work; rules prevented first-line people from being responsible for quality, methods or anything of intelligence; feedback about results, changes, plans, company performance were not communicated except in management staff meetings; coercion, threats, demands were the primary management tools; employees were treated as expendable.

Second, Organization - people at all levels were encouraged, trained and expected to implement quality and performance improvements in their own work; information about results, quality, cost, etc., was communicated daily to those who produced it; total company performance and direction was developed with input of people across all levels and functions of the company; employees were hired very carefully and were told they were the best and expected to perform in the same manner; teamwork, mutual respect, responsibility and authority were fostered. People were allowed to give their knowledge and implement their ideas in their daily assignments.

Easy to say and hard to do? The results prove the differences and the worth of building, expecting and obtaining the long-term commitment of those employed.