‘Under promise and over deliver’ has long been a familiar phrase in business.

The premise being that it is better to exceed expectations than to set a bigger goal and not achieve it. But does this way of setting goals set the stage for a breakthrough in performance? Not likely.

When we work with a team on a Breakthrough Project, they are asked to make a breakthrough promise. At this point in our process we often find that the desire to over deliver leads the team to want to make a smaller promise, one they know they can keep without a shadow of a doubt.

Criteria for a promise

Webster’s defines a promise as “a statement telling someone that you will definitely do something or that something will definitely happen in the future”.

breakthrough promise isn’t a stretch goal, or something the team will try to accomplish, it is something that they are committing to make happen.

One of our criteria for that promise is that it:

Requires a fundamental shift in thinking and approach—initially viewed as “I/We cannot do this.

When a team is committed to causing a breakthrough, they are often working on something that hasn’t been done before, hence they are unsure of their ability to guarantee the result.

Merely working longer or harder at delivering the result is not enough to fundamentally shift the thinking and approach of the team. The power of making a breakthrough promise can be the catalyst to making that shift happen.

When a promise is big enough, you know you can’t deliver it using the same actions and conversations of the past – a breakthrough promise forces the team to bring new thinking to the project and take new and bold actions.

When is the last time you or your team made a promise that required you to fundamentally shift your thinking and approach?

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