Compliance vs. Commitment

At a conference I attended earlier this year, one of the sessions used the phrase “compliance vs commitment” as it applies to user adoption. This is an excellent way to evaluate your strategies when it comes to getting your user community to “buy in” to the solutions you are implementing. Let’s parallel this example to something else in the real world…broccoli.

Let’s take a child who doesn’t like the vegetable for whatever reason, but you see the value in them eating it you have only two real options. One is to disguise it with something else (cheese is my personal favorite). The second is the parental standby, “You can’t leave the table until you finish your broccoli.” In the second case the offending vegetable may be consumed, but there is no commitment to do so again in the future. Each time becomes an evaluation of the negative effects of not complying with the unwillingness to comply in the first place.

If you look at the other option, disguising the vegetable, now it isn’t perceived as something to be resisted and may even be looked upon as something desirable to have next time. You have encouraged a commitment to the act of eating the broccoli without the negative response enacted if there is non-compliance. Now there are downsides to “sweetening” the meal, but that’s best left for another discussion.

Let’s translate this into solution building. A problem in a business is identified, a procedure is determined as an answer to the problem, and a solution is designed to implement said procedure. The challenge is: does the solution require compliance or commitment?

A solution requiring compliance needs validation measures, tracking components, and notifications when compliance is not met. It is built to manage the exceptions to the process. Dashboards and metrics are all targeted around showing where compliance has failed and remediating the situation.

A solution based on commitment is harder to design but when successful is easier to run. These solutions encourage adherence to the policy by measuring success over failures and recognizing such. There can be a weakness in this model for those are not motivated by positive reinforcement, and as such a combination model may be necessary.

The key to success is to build to both sets of users. Those who will use the system because they have to (compliance) and those who will use it because they want to (commitment.) Take the needs of both classes into consideration when defining and designing a solution and you stand a much greater chance of success.