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The Perils of New Year’s Resolutions

Many firms celebrate the completion of a business cycle at the end of December. On January 1st the fiscal clock rests to zero and the march to meeting the new plan begin. A sigh of relief occurs as the last sale is completed. The need to close the books and prepare for the new fiscal cycle is still one holiday away and can wait for several more days. There is a sense of peace over last year’s toil, whether good or bad, and a new sense of hope enriches the spirit as the year draws to a close.

Far in advance of the end of the year, the business leader has already poured over trend data, economic forecasts and competitive reports. The prognosis from the study results in the following year’s budget and profit plan. What can be expected is crafted and pen put to paper with the “goals” for the business in the next year. True there are some unknowns but data and analysis of the future environment are never in short supply. As we feverishly pursue the “current state” we begin to plan for the “future state”! But what does that mean?

Similar to our personal goals and aspirations, near the end of 2012 many business leaders begin to craft out a new plan with many actions (resolutions) to be enacted at the onset of the New Year. One may create a list of objectives and goals, stop doing certain things, do more of others. Terms such as “will” and “must” are presented in strong forceful statements. Similar to a sprinter at the starting line the business professional waits for the gun to sound so this revolutionary change to business excellence can begin! These “business resolutions” will require behavioral changes within the organization as well as well as the individual. Possibly once can include a kick off meeting on January 2nd to help explain the changes and what will be required of everyone within the organization. The business leader may include a formal presentation to help define how things will now be done. Consensus will be requested and the march from black to white begins.

It all seems to make sense, does it not? Well, let us review a personal example of the above. Individuals that decide to jump-start their exercise program with a kick off on January 1st. Plans are made, objectives defined and the change is enacted. By mid-February there is a dramatic decline in commitment and 70% or more, of individuals who have committed that either fall off their exercise regimen or stop altogether. The “big bang” a resolution requires fails the test of time.

This is also true in the business world. The dramatic change and impact business resolutions require are destined to fail the test of time. Not that I am opposed to change. But the progress of change within the organization can be best digested if chewed in small pieces. Therefore, the New Year should be simply the continuation of the incremental changes the business leader creates throughout the year in support of the business mission and strategy. True, the financial clock reverts to zero as the new fiscal year begins. But simply changing course because of the date on a calendar will most probably not yield the planned benefits. In fact it may create confusion!

So why is the beginning of the year so different than any other time of the year? It really isn’t!

Happy New Year and I hope your year to be one of excitement and fulfillment!

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About the Author

Pete Papantos is an operations director at a Fortune 500 company. He is responsible for the global execution of their strategic plan and driving operational excellence using lean methods. In addition, Pete is a graduate instructor with emphasis in operations and strategic management — both in traditional and online settings.