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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Four Steps to Creating Successful “Lean” New Year’s Resolutions

With the hustle of the holidays over we turn to the New Year.  This is the time of year when people are trying to turn over a new leaf. The beginning of the year marks a point where people make New Year’s Resolutions.  But in all honesty, do they ever really pan out? Not really.

So why are resolutions important? Resolutions are great opportunities to strengthen the will power and boost self-confidence. They make us feel like we are in control of our lives and our destiny.

Setting the right type of New Year’s resolutions is a great way to plan the New Year. But setting resolutions is only the first part. Keeping a resolution requires a detailed plan —even a strategy when there's a setback.

If you are serious about keeping your resolutions there is something you can do about it. 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.

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.

While it’s true the New Year is an opportunity for change, what is more important is to recognize you don’t need a special occasion to change things. In every single second the ability for positive growth is open and available.

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  1. How many failed "new year's resolutions" are half-assed attempts to jump at a solution?

    Resolutions don't seem like good problem solving. They are stated as a solution. "I'm going to work out every day."

    What's the problem statement? Do we really understand the problem?

    Back to PDCA... even the "Plan" step is not just a matter of jumping right to a Plan... it includes studying and understanding the current situation.

    1. Mark, you raise a great point. Once you determine you need to change/improve it is important to follow the scientific method to analyze current state, determine countermeasures, and continually evaluate performance so adjust can be made. A rigorous process of improvement is important, especially if you seek success.