It is easy to get people to commit to something. What is hard is persuading them to actually do it.
Several weeks ago, almost 100 people answered to my call for beta readers for my new book. That was far more than I had expected. However, I suspected that some of them were perhaps a bit too enthusiastic. That’s why I decided to ask all 100 volunteers these tough questions:
Can you give feedback on 250 pages of text in only 3 weeks?
Do you have enough time for this between March 24 and April 13?
Do you have (some) experience with agile management or leadership?
Do you have useful experiences, stories, and references to share?
Can you give feedback on the readability and structure of texts?
(and a few more…)
The result of this email message was that 50 people committed to proofreading the new book, and the other 50 volunteers reconsidered their offer and bowed out. That was great! I would rather help people understand what they are getting themselves into before they start on a strenuous journey and get tired and disappointed halfway.
From Passion to Action
After I sent the beta version of the first chapter of my book to all proof readers, a total of 25 people actually gave feedback on it. The second and third chapter received comments from 15 proof readers and the forth and fifth ended up getting feedback from 9 volunteers. Several weeks later, when I distributed the final chapters, a mere 5 active proofreaders were left. In total, the number of people who hung around to give feedback on at least one of the later chapters was 15.
I started with 100.
And 50 had committed to completing the project but only 15 did.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming anyone! I’m merely reporting my observations and I’m wondering why, time and time again, I see the same pattern: lots of people say, “Yes, I’m in!” but only few people actually do something. I saw it with Agile Lean Europe, with the Stoos network, and many other activities. It seems to be part of human nature:
Commit and Forget
If there’s anyone to blame here, it’s probably me. Turning passion into action is one of the traits of great leadership. With 50 people signing up, and only 15 people actually following through, my “persuasion ratio” is apparently only 30 percent. It’s not my job to complain about a discrepancy between what people say and what they do. I see it as my job to learn how to get people to do what they say.
Getting to yes is easy. Getting to done is hard.
Fortunately, the next learning opportunity for me has already presented itself. Last week, I sent out a call for translators for the new book.
80 people answered me, “Yes, I’m in!”
Now I wonder, how can I persuade people to actually do it?