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Monday, January 9, 2017

Guest Post: How to Set New Year’s Resolutions for a Company that Work

Today I am pleased to share a guest post by long time friend and lean thinker Ankit Patel. Ankit talks about the importance of setting goals (resolutions) but believes many fail because the are missing a key ingredient. He says we need to address the psychological part of change to be successful. 

A resolution (goal) without a plan is just a dream.  A resolution without a plan that addresses human psychology is throwing a Hail Mary and praying.  Lean or the Toyota Production System has produced several ways to create a plan around company goals.  Tools like Hoshin Kanri, Business Canvas Model, Minimum Viable Products, etc.  What’s missing is how you address the psychology of change.  How many New Year’s resolutions or goals have you failed to meet in the past?  If you’re like me it’s way more than I’d like to say out loud. 

Let’s say you have an annual goal to lose weight.  What happens with organization goals is similar to what happens with your weight goal.  You go to the gym for the first 6 weeks, you eat clean, you get enough sleep and then life happens.  You have a sick child, you have a stressful project, you go on vacation, or you have a friend’s birthday party.   Slowly your focus shifts and then all of the sudden you’re eating terrible food, not going to the gym, and all of your bad habits creep in.  In fact even if you’re successful at losing weight chances are you are going to put it back on.  Almost 65% of people return to their pre-dieting weight within three years, according to Gary Foster, Ph.D., clinical director of the Weight and Eating Disorders Program at the University of Pennsylvania.  So what does this have to do with company goals?  It’s not different for your organization.  The reason most people put the weight back on or they don’t achieve their goals in the first place is that changing behaviors and habits is hard. 

It takes a significant amount of time and energy to change the habits you have ingrained.  Without a plan to address the psychological need of a person or group of people you set yourself up for failure with hitting a goal. 

There is a multistep approach to setting goals that are in line with human psychology and we’ll talk about the first two parts of a six part process.

The first step is a “Where are you now map” and the second step is “Draw Your Future.”  The where are you now map can be a paragraph description, a process map, a value steam map, or any other mapping tool.  The main point of this is to get it out there visually so everyone can see and agree to the current state.  What this does is align everyone to what the current situation is and what the opportunities might be.  In this step you want to address how the system got to the point it is now and why things are being done a certain way.  Applying this to our weight loss example we might show a picture of our starting weight and a set of photos without a shirt on.  We would also take inventory of all the “bad“ habits we currently have.  One of my bad habits is that I like to have beer while watching any sports game.  I do this because I like to drink socially with my friends. 

The second step is to draw a future state.  This can be a future state map, a description, or something visual that shows how the future would look if we changed and achieved our goals.  This creates an anchor point as a group and a frame that we are all aligned to and are focused on achieving.  In this part of the exercise you will also want to come up with plans on how you deal with the current issues you are facing.  If I am drinking beer every time I watch spots maybe I should try to switch to light beer or maybe sparkling water or another drink.  Maybe I avoid spending time with friends that will drink as much.  Maybe I don’t watch as many games with friends.  All of these are possibilities that I incorporate into my future state picture to help me achieve my goal.  Having thought of a plan like this ahead of time helps you be prepared to handle the stress of change. 

The critical part of the current state and future state maps is the plan of action around areas of change.  If you can address that upfront it will make the job of changing and achieving your goals easier.  If you are interested in the four other steps for change I host a webinar Systematic Framework for Finally Achieving Predictable, Safe Growth without Increasing Expenses. Here you’ll learn the psychology for change that increases your chances of a change implementation being done right. 

About the Author: 
Ankit Patel is a managing partner at The Lean Way Consulting.  One of his favorite accomplishments came when he helped Teknetex, a technology professionals recruitment firm, be named to the “Inc. 500” list of the fastest growing companies in America.

Clients praise Ankit for his stabilizing influence during times of conflict and his balanced, calm leadership through all phases of Lean Transformations and other company change.

He holds a Master of Science degree in Positive Organizational Development from Case Western Reserve University, as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from Georgia Tech. He lives with his wife in metro Atlanta, GA.

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