This Year Will Be Different

It’s the beginning of a New Year and all of your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) have been set and all of the managers within the company have committed to achieving these metrics.  This is the year we are going to achieve every one of these KPIs.  Heck, while I am at it I am going to stick to all my resolutions as well.

My guess is you have all experienced this unbridled enthusiasm to set, with good intention, lofty goals and achieve them, but few have ever truly done it.  Even sadder is when we don’t succeed; our ability to come up with excuses and rationale for the lack of success is really quite remarkable.  What is beyond sad is we actually believe the excuses and when we start planning for the next year, we convince ourselves that these issues won’t happen again.  We fall blindly into the same traps over and over again. This year will be different! In reality there is no excuse for not learning from past mistakes.

I recently stumbled across a thought provoking quote from Jack Dixon, a well known author, that puts this crazy merry-go-round into perspective:

“If you focus on results, you will never change. If you focus on change, you will get results.”

This quote fits perfectly with a very famous quote from Albert Einstein:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.”

The premise to both of these quotes is if you want to achieve the results you have never achieved in the past, you have to make changes. The changes do not have to be major changes. In fact in his book, the “One Percent Solution” Bijan Afkami states that if you could just make a one percent improvement every day or even every week on whatever you are focused on, in a very short time period you will have achieved significant improvements.  However, you still can’t achieve even a 1% improvement unless you make real changes. 

So what kind of changes do you need to make to achieve your goals?  I suggest you ask yourself the following set of questions.  If you answer “No” to any of these questions, that could be an indication of where you might want to start making changes:

  1. Do you have an adequate system to measure the driving forces behind your goals?  An increase in sales can come from various areas – new customer acquisition, increasing the frequency of customer visits, and/or gaining a larger share of the customer wallet.  Although the goal is to make the changes to achieve results, you have to be able measure to see if the changes you are making are taking you in the direction you want to go.  
  2. Do you have adequate systems and processes in place to ensure that your people are performing the tasks required to achieve your standard level of performance in the particular area you are focused on?  Many times the systems and processes themselves may be inadequate or are flawed in some way, submarining the goal from the start.
  3. Is everyone who can affect your goal specifically aware of the measurements, the systems and processes and the reasons the goal is important?  If your people are not specifically aware of what to do and why it is important, their performance will fall short. 
  4. Have you created a sufficient reward system, either positive or negative, to ensure that people have the desire to achieve the goal?  Desire or lack of desire is the biggest reason goals succeed or fail.
  5. Do your people have the ability and the knowledge to perform the tasks required to successfully achieve the goal?  If not, it is your responsibility to ensure that these people are adequately trained, or find better people.  Hoping and praying they will figure it out is a sure recipe for another great excuse.
  6. Are you disciplined to consistently review the results, communicate them with the people who are driving the change and, most importantly, continually tweak and improve the systems and processes until your goal is reached?  It is not sufficient to just inspect what you expect; you must make changes from what you find.  These changes can happen within your systems and processes or with your people.  Grumbling at everyone to work harder isn’t the answer.  

Many of us have heard or muttered the saying, “Managing would be easy if it weren’t for the people, the competition or the customers.”  Unfortunately, there is not much of business without any of these.  There was no promise that managing would be easy, but it can be fun and you can achieve your goals. You have to be committed to constantly changing, if only 1% at a time.   

By, Greg Thiesen, President and CEO, Red Book Solutions and B2A – Over 30 years of experience in various areas – President and CEO of  Red Book Solutions and B2A, Turnaround Specialist with Doering and Eastwood, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Information Officer for a major division of Conagra, Inc. and Senior Manager and a Certified Public Accountant with Ernst and Young


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