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Sunday, January 03, 2010

Making New Years Business Resolutions That “Stick”

Making New Years Resolutions that “Stick”: How Small Businesses Can Overcome the Odds in 2010

There’s an old saying “If nothing changes, nothing changes….”

So, with every New Year, business leaders take a hard look and say to themselves, “This year – we’re going to be better, we’re going to change and do things differently…” So, they make a series of New Years resolutions and attempt to set a new course.

And what happens?

  • 53 percent of businesses do not maintain their New Year’s resolutions because their planned changes are either too expensive or take up too many resources (Resource: Health & Safety Executive – HSE – 2006).
  • 75 percent of change initiatives fail because the organization is unsuccessful in managing the human reaction to change. (Resource: John P. Kotter, Leading Change, 1996)

Obviously, the odds are not in your favor. You lose focus, priorities change, and the resolutions become once again, not worth the paper they’re written on.

Faced with challenges from every corner, what can small business leaders do differently in 2010, to overcome the odds, in order to make their New Years resolutions “stick”?

Gary Harpst, CEO and founder of Six Disciplines Corp. and author of the top-rated book Six Disciplines for Excellence: Building Small Businesses That Learn, Lead and Last, offers the following tips to help make your business resolutions endure (past January of 2010):

Beware - the “answer” is not the best seller! Most small business leaders hunger for the most effective insights, yet many end up falling for the latest management fad – dragging their organizations through yet another approach – a symptom that has become known as MBBS – “Management By Best Seller.” Best-selling business books, by themselves, are not the silver bullet. To turn the odds in your favor, you’ll need to adopt a repeatable approach, a system for keeping you on track, and obtain outside help (an accountability coach) to keep you on track for sticking with the program.

Use a repeatable method. Only a repeatable method, applied consistently, will enable change to stick. Although it might seem counter-intuitive, start by stepping back and assessing your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Then, renew your organization’s mission, vision, values and strategic position, and create a list of the things you will stop doing. Next, set goals that are specific and measurable and ones that will lead your organization. Then, align all the systems within your company to ensure the resources are stacked to meet your goals. Next, create individual plans for everyone in the organization on a quarterly basis, so each person understands and aligns their daily activities with the goals of the organization. Have each person meet with the manager weekly, to keep on track and learn to become accountable for executing the strategy.

Don’t look at it as “just a New Years resolution!” Look at your resolutions (the set of changes) as a continual pursuit – not as a short-term fad that just “fixes” an immediate problem. For change to stick takes an enduring approach, one that must be embraced and practiced every day, quarter after quarter, even year over year. To turn the odds in your favor, you’ll need to come to grips with the realization that short-term fixes are not the answer. Only a commitment to continual improvement will enable the changes you want – to stick, to endure.

Advantages of an accountability coach. Having access to a business coach that can help hold you accountable for the changes you want in your business immediately improves the odds in your favor. Just like personal challenges of fitness, diet or weight loss, an accountability coach can help keep you on track, keep you motivation, and help hold you accountable for where you want to go with your business. It’s too easy to let the crisis of the day change your direction. Having an accountability coach provides that additional level of motivation you need to enable you to “do the things you know need to be done, but in the past, you just never got around to doing.”

An execution system – to keep you engaged. What drives most business leaders crazy – what really keeps them up at night – is the greatest business challenge of all: execution. Getting things done. Meeting the plan. Delivering the goods. We call it so many different things – but it still comes down to one concept: execution. The pressure to get things done is nonstop, pervasive, and unrelenting. In business, as in our personal lives, we generally know what to do (strategy) – the hard part is just doing it (execution). Doing the things we say we’re going to do sounds so easy, yet each of us struggles with it every single day. To turn the odds in your favor, you need to use some type of automated execution management system that enables you to track how you spend your time, communicate effectively with others on how you’re doing, and to continuously align your daily activities with the goals of the organization.

Change what? Look beyond the obvious! So, you’re “biggest” problems seem to be getting sales leads, or maybe it’s your customer follow-up procedures. First, face the facts: whatever you think is your biggest problem, is not. These problems, while looming large today, can be fixed, one at a time, until the next one pops up. The greatest problem business leaders’ face is building an organization that’s learning how to increase its capabilities to meet the next set of challenges.

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