Frequently, people will have their teams sign a ‘change contract’ that clarifies what their role is in whatever project or initiative they are taking part in. For some reason, when people sign their names to something, they are more likely to follow through on it. These contracts generally include actual behaviors, as well as attitudes.
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The biggest benefit of having someone sign a contract is to make them realize that they are committing to something. Often people will agree to something in the moment, but don’t really think through what they agreed to, or don’t understand what the new project will entail. When things start getting harder down the road, they might realize that this was not what they committed to, and withdraw their support. Contracts help prevent that. People also take their signature more seriously than a verbal agreement. When they are asked to read and sign a document, even if there really isn’t anything legally enforceable in it, they seem to commit more. Leaders also have an opportunity to gauge support from the beginning, by judging the reactions people have to the contract.
Is there really a change in commitment by signing a contract before a big change? For some, probably not. Many people will simply do it because it is expected. Others, though, are serious about putting their signature on documents. There is probably some impact on this group.
The benefit that is consistent across all groups, though, is that the process of laying out the contracts and spelling out the expectations is standardized. The contract gives people an understanding of what is expected of them prior to starting a project. When leaders set clear expectations up front, change becomes far easier down the road.