Committed or Apathetic: Where are you?

01.24.2006 · Posted in People & Teams

SEATTLE — I recently came across a mailing list post where the author mentioned Peter Senge’s book, The Fifth Discipline while describing ways to motivate an uninspired worker by describing Senge’s continum and his own expectations about where she should fall upon it.

The interesting thing about this tatic is that it presumes the employee was fully invested in the organization’s vision. Senge makes it clear that developing the vision is key and that without this we’ll have a long, tough road moving towards committment.

Selecting the proper level of involvement and level of agreement early on in the process is going to have an huge impact on how it will be received as time goes on.

But what to do if the vision has already been defined? Or you add members to the team once work is underway? Or you are put in charge of an already existing team?

In these cases it’s important to start with an inventory of attitudes towards the vision. Senge suggests that an individual’s attitude can be plotted on a continum that ranges from committed on one end, to apathetic at the other:

  • Committed
  • Enrolled
  • Genuine Compliance
  • Formal Compliance
  • Grudging Compliance
  • Non-Compliance
  • Apathy

Senge goes on to say, “90% of what passes for committment is really some form of compliance.”

But I’m wondering if that 90% is equally shared by all parties, or is distributed more one way than another. For instance, consider a task I’m not committed to, but rather am genuinely compliant (getting things done with a high level of quality and my boss is happy). If it passes as pure committment to my boss, and allows me to do the things I enjoy doing, then is that okay?

Well, maybe. It’s okay if you are more committed than the people around you. You’ll be working more diligently than anyone else while they have no doubts of your “committment”.

Actually, if you are aware of the Senge continum, then you cant not be aware of where you and those around you fall on it. Once you have this awareness it’s human nature to make sure you are perceived as more committed than those you work with (and at least as committed as your boss…).

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