What is a “resolution”? It’s a promise we make to ourselves to improve at least one aspect of our personal or business lives. Most people make resolutions in the last few days of the year because (a) it’s a tradition and (b) we really want to be better people. Unfortunately, most resolutions are broken within the first couple of weeks of the new year.
Businesses make resolutions, too. They call their resolutions “short-term objectives” but they behave much the same as personal resolutions. Many of them go awry almost immediately and when we’re a large organization, we’re even less likely to respond in a timely or appropriate manner.
So, why don’t we keep most of our resolutions? We fall short for a variety of reasons, including:
We don’t set SMART objectives for ourselves. SMART objectives are…
- Specific – In words everyone understands and no one can misinterpret, what are you going to do?
- Measurable – How will you know you’re making progress (or not)? You can’t intentionally improve what can’t be measured.
- Achievable – Have you set your goals too high or too low? Too high, and you’ll quickly adopt a defeatist attitude. Too low, and you create a false sense of accomplishment. The key is you want (your business) to improve. Base your resolutions on what you know is possible, and aim a little higher.
- Relevant – Should you be trying to do what you’re resolving to do? Is this goal of yours important to your overall plan? What impact will it have on your life/business? Is your time better spent here or elsewhere?
- Time-bound – Setting an objective is pointless if you haven’t the ability or intent to make it happen on or before a certain time and date.
Sometimes, we keep our resolutions to ourselves. Promises unmade to others are promises we don’t have to keep. However, when we do this we fail to recognize that (a) we are our own worst critics and (b) other people won’t be as judgmental as we think they’ll be. Seek the help and advice of others.
We often trip ourselves up by expecting too much. By unrealistically comparing ourselves with others (“if they can do it, so can we”) and setting our expectations beyond our reach, we set ourselves up for disappointment. It’s good to have hope – sometimes, it’s all we have – but hope needs to be tempered with realism. Making resolutions isn’t an “all or nothing” proposition.
We keep doing the same things over and over, yet we expect different results. (Wasn’t that Einstein’s definition of “insanity”?) Instead, we need to continually measure and evaluate. We also need to think in terms of corrective and preventive actions. We need to take time to reflect on the possible root causes of our annual failures to keep resolutions we make, or achieve objectives we’ve set.
So, what are some of my resolutions for 2013? Personally, I’ve resolved to spend more time with my wife and less time on the Internet. I confess to having a hard time ending my business day. When you are the business, as I am, it’s not possible – or practical – to bring everything to a halt at 5:00 p.m.
You tell yourself you’ll quit when you get to “a good stopping point”, which is hard to quantify when every task and client has its idiosyncrasies. You find it easier to justify longer and still longer days.
However, we all reach a “point of diminishing returns”, when our energy and productivity begin to taper off. If we keep going until we’ve got nothing left, the quality of our work – as well as our health and our personal lives – suffers. I don’t want that, so I’m going to manage my time better.
As for my business life, I’ve already covered one resolution. Other resolutions of mine include earning at least one more certification relevant to my customers and potential clients (for example, a certification in risk management) and outsourcing some key business functions (e.g., marketing) that others can do better than me, so I can concentrate on the business of helping businesses – like yours – achieve and sustain quality improvements.
Now, as for that Great American Novel I’ve been working on…