Getting a jump start on your New Year’s Resolutions

Setting precise and researched goals leads to success and fulfillment

It’s that time of year again. The holidays are coming one after another and people are starting to think about how next year will be a little different from this year. I like to begin work on my New Year’s resolutions a little early so that I have time to do any research or preparation required to carry them off before the New Year begins. This is based mostly on my own experience with failing to achieve my goals due to getting out of the gate slowly with my New Year’s resolutions. I’ve found that if I’m truly ready to go on Jan 1st with my resolution, I have a much better chance of sticking to it and achieving my goals. This blog is “Focused on Performance” and I like to think of that as coming in at least three flavors for me: personal performance, team performance and organizational performance. Most of us work on those three levels and in true “Getting Things Done” fashion, I try to coordinate my resolutions across all three areas. Doing this helps to maximize effect and ensure both synergy and the ability to allocate my resources (myself) across all three areas. I make no distinction from a calendaring or planning perspective between the things I will be doing for my work teams vs. my family life teams. I do however take all of the individual items that are related to each into account, given that I only have one of myself to satisfy those requirements. For each tier I try to have three specific resolutions and set three specific goals. I set the goal so that it is measurable and I am happy if I can hit 75% of the target value. Given that set up, let me give you a brief description of how to delineate between these three types of resolutions:

Personal Performance

This is how most people are familiar with New Year’s resolutions. We decide to eat better, go to the gym more often, and get more organized. In fact, the three above have played a starring role in my own New Year’s resolutions for many years. I have finally begun to make progress in these areas by being a bit more specific about what I meant with regard to these resolutions and then tracking to see if I was succeeding. I also did a bit more research in these areas to try to find approaches that would help me address these rather than simply hoping that they would happen because I wrote them on a 3×5 index card and taped them to my closet door. By tracking my performance against my goals, I know that I lost 38 pounds over the last year which wasn’t quite to my goal of 50. I made it to the gym 168 times, which wasn’t quite my goal of 196. My “Getting Things Done” list was the poorest performer on my personal list as I failed to maintain a daily synchronization of this list on more than half of the weeks. All of this leaves me with plenty of room for improvement next year and a pretty good sense of accomplishment over this past year.

Team Performance

Teams include boards we are a part of, small working groups, our families and other small groups where many of us spend most of our time. Even if we are a part of a functional organization or grouped by skill set, most of us work in small teams every day to get our work done. Team dynamics are big drivers of the productivity of those teams. Figuring out how you can work together more effectively will ensure success and make the time spent together not just more effective but often times it will make it more pleasurable as well. I often find that team performance isn’t given the same emphasis as either personal or organizational performance because it is awkwardly in between personal performance requirements, which are often driven on a very personal level by the desire to further career, or specific individual desires and organizational performance issues, which may be driven by executives and top management within an organization. Improving your team performance likely has enormous impact on both of these despite its lack of emphasis because so much of our time is spent dedicated to these smaller groups. Making specific team oriented goals may help you meet your personal or organizational goals. I have two really important teams I play a role on; one is my family and one is a product development team at MB&A.

On my family team my resolution is to do a better job of keeping track of events and organizing in order to reduce the time and effort required by the managing member of that team (my wife) to manage event planning. My measure will be the number of Friday evenings where I enter all action items and calendar items for the weekend and week ahead. My goal is to do it on 45 Fridays in the coming year.

For my MB&A product team I am the lead. One of the big areas where we are failing is around milestone management. This team has very few dedicated players so we often set milestones only to miss them. I would like to find a way to better meet these milestones. I am setting the goal of achieving 85% of this years product related milestones and hope to achieve it by doing a better job of time boxing our milestones and working together to keep product progress rolling as team members roll on and off of consulting assignments.

Organizational Performance

How you are able to drive organizational performance varies dramatically by your position in the organization. However, it is a mistake to think that you are too low in an organization to drive change. In fact, if you truly feel you can’t drive change from below in your organization you probably should be looking for new opportunities elsewhere. Organizations that don’t leverage the insights that come from within usually aren’t very high performing over time. Personally, I like to think of organizational performance opportunities in terms of people, processes, and technology. These are the core areas where you can effect change. Maybe this is the year your organization really gets focused on using technology to become more efficient. Maybe there is a way to change your organization’s performance by developing new collaborative skills across the organization, or perhaps it is collaboration across these areas. Whatever it is, if you want to ensure that you aren’t hampered by the same problems next year that you are having this year, you should start thinking about the to-be world now.

For MB&A, I am focusing on two really big resolutions for the company. The first is to do a better job of setting and maintaining organizational processes. For a company that spends a decent amount of time consulting to large organizations on how to manage processes, we could use some work in that regard around our own. We are pretty good with regard to development process and other customer facing processes; where we fall down, is in administration. To that end, I am resolving to tackle two very important areas where processes and technology need to be changed in order to improve performance. The first is our onboarding process, which has been a very loose apprentice model up until now. To this point, we have largely brought people in and set them next to their soon to be boss and team members and hoped for the best. This has actually worked pretty well from a results standpoint, but I really don’t see it as scalable. We’ve been able to get by to this point in large degree because we have great people helping out. I want to have a formal 30-day process where we step through our core methods, tools and processes so that anybody we onboard can be shifted across project teams within 30 days without causing productivity issues. Once the process is defined (Jan 1st target date) I want 100% of new hires to go through the process.

The other area where our organization could really use some help is in collaboration. We are a knowledge business to large degree and sharing information across project teams makes our clients more effective and ourselves more valuable. As we’ve grown, we have started to lose some of the ability to rapidly share best practice and emerging approaches across our teams in order to maximize client side benefit. We are going to address this by transitioning our internal knowledge management approach to be more process driven. We will also be harnessing some of the new capability we have developed for our clients in order to maximize the ability to share information across teams. The goal will be to have every presentation and deliverable available within our security model and tagged/sortable by subject area by the close of 2013.

What about you?

I’d love to hear what you are planning for New Year’s resolutions for yourself, your team and your organization. Let me know what you are tackling next year and I’ll provide my feedback if any on approaches and metrics.

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