Commitment is Easy

Commitment Is Easy, Persuasion Is Hard

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?

Would you like to discuss leadership traits with me during my global book tour and one-day workshops? Say, “Yes, I’m in!” and actually click here.

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  • Linda van der Pal

    If I had been one of the contributors, it would have helped if you kept reminding me. Like every two weeks (or an even shorter period, if the deadline is tighter) to keep progress going. Good luck in getting those translations!

    • jurgenappelo

      I sent them a total of (at least) ten updates and reminders in a period of about five weeks. 🙂

      • Linda van der Pal

        Hmm, sadly that was all that I could come up with. Guess they’re a bit different from me. 🙂

  • Erwin Verweij

    I look at this challenge in a different environment. Companies hire me as a coach and then except that I do all the work and change everything. A team will have no problem to do what I advice but to get management to go with the change is almost impossible. They say they will and want to work with Agile Frameworks but actually doing so is in most situation not happening. They expect change without committing themselves to the change. The result is a very eager coach who can’t get anything done. Teams who want but fail because of the lack of support and managers who think that the framework failed. So how to get everyone to commit and become the change?

    • jurgenappelo

      Thanks! I suppose we’re all learning how to be better influencers. 🙂

  • Freek Beekhuis

    ‘It is not about what people say; it is about what people do.’ Some people write, others read 😉 Just finish your book like you did before and I’ll buy it, read it and I’ll spread the word, provided that it is as good as Management 3.0. So stop talking and finish your book so I can finally read your work again 😉 But you are right; this is why I didn’t respond in the first place. Knowing me …

    • jurgenappelo

      Good! I *love* readers who don’t break their promises. 😉

  • Jonathan Keller

    Consuming is easy, contributing is hard. This is a greater organizational/community challenge. I’ve been consuming content from for years. It’s easy, and I believed I was participating in this community simply by showing up. But, I didn’t contribute anything until a few weeks ago when I posted my first comment. Low risk, low threshold to entry, and it’s even one step above “liking” something. So, I suppose now that I’m [actually] participating in this community, I’ll contribute more… maybe answering the call to review 250 pages in 3 weeks. Or maybe just commenting on one blog post per week rather than one per month.

    • jurgenappelo

      Well, the review phase is over. But blog comments are always appreciated. 🙂

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