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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Forget about Resolutions, Focus on the Process

With the hustle of the holidays over we turn to the New Year, where many individuals are honing in on their New Year’s resolution. For many, it may be an opportunity to assess their struggles of the previous year or to wallow in their triumphs. Unfortunately, many fail to keep those resolutions.

Personally I recommend forgetting the whole concept of resolutions and concentrating on setting goals instead. The solution is to have a process that you follow when you need to make a change or solve a problem; A process that will ensure you plan, test and incorporate feedback before you commit to implementation.

A popular tool for doing just this is the Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle. This is often referred to as the Deming Cycle or the Deming Wheel after its proponent, W Edwards Deming. A closed loop system, it emphasizes four repetitive steps:

First, start with an idea and create a PLAN to make it happen. 

Then, DO adhere to the plan, and take corrective action when necessary. Next, analyze and CHECK progress toward your goal and identify the root causes of obstacles. 
Finally, take appropriate ACTion. If the outcome matches expectations, then standardize the process to maintain the gains. If the results were disappointing, then modify the process to eliminate the root cause of remaining problems. In either case, repeat the process starting again with PLAN.

While these steps appear in a linear sequence, when implemented the phases are best thought of as concurrent processes that can continually be improved. This is the key to seeing your resolution through to the end.

It is important to remember as you start 2013 you begin with a vision of what you want to accomplish. Whether it is a personal New Year's resolution or a new business objective you need to set a goal or target condition. Lawrence J. Peter said, “If you don't know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.”

Resolutions and goal setting may seem similar, but resolutions typically take a let's start something and see what happens approach, while goal setting is about planning a specific path to success. Keeping your resolution isn't easy but, following the PDCA cycle will yield better results and sustained improvements. Taking the time to plan, check, and act will pay dividends.

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