Videos: Promised-based management

Professor Don Sull of is a Professor of Management Practice in Strategic and International Management, and the Faculty Director of Executive Education at the London Business School.

His perspective on organizational execution delineates three modes of execution:

• Power

• Process

• Promise

Power-based management: hierarchy of power where information flows up and direction flows down. You do what you’re told or you’re fired. It is best for simple organizations, stable situations and depends on the quality of the people in charge. Use it sparingly because it can dampen engagement, create silos, and is relatively slow as it takes time for information to flow up and to wait for decisions and the downward communication.

Process-based management: a procedure that cuts across units of an organization and ends at the customer; good for high volume execution. Process approach lends itself to improvement and standardization, but less conducive for non-routine innovation.

Promise-based management: A firm is a network of promises. Promises confer flexibility in that people can engage with a myriad of other people in a 360 degree manner. Sull points out to the ability to negotiate and renegotiate promises more quickly and flexibly than a hard-wired set of processes and procedures. Good for non-routine situations that benefits from flexibility in how things get done. However, a network of promises also requires a lot of energy to set-up, negotiate, and maintain the web of promises. There is also the issue, which Sull discusses in video 2, when the receiver of a promise does not believe the promise can or will be kept.

As Sull indicates at the end of video 1, it is often a blending of the three that is best.

In video 3 Sull discusses how to create a promise-based culture, one where promises are well-formed and have a high degree of reliability. He talks about how to counteract “sand-bagging” or under-promising; the dangers of people making aggressive promises that can promote an “every man for himself” mindset versus collaboration; and the temptation to cut corners to meet objectives/promises.

Video 1:

Video 2:

Video 3:




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.