New year, new resolve

New year, new resolve

Why do so many new year resolutions fail? It’s a question which often raises its head at this time of year as the turning of the year acts as a catalyst for new hopes and new ambitions. And we won’t just have plucked these resolutions out of thin air, so it is perhaps surprising that a YouGov poll at the end of 2020 revealed that just 26% of individuals had maintained their resolve to change?

Mind you, some resolutions don’t even get off the starting blocks. The same YouGov poll revealed that whilst in December 2019 some 27% intended to make a new year resolution, just 12% did so. That aside, whilst there is no single reason why resolutions fade away there are some key failure points. Interestingly, the same reasons can apply to company ambitions as to personal ones. So let’s take a look at a few reasons why ambition doesn’t always translate into outcome.

Too broad, too vague. I’m going to get fit, we’re going to conquer a new territory, our profit margins are going to increase dramatically. These statements all have one thing in common. They might look good as a headline but without a detailed breakdown and plan they are all pretty meaningless.

Lack of preparation. This leads us on to the next problem. I’m not going to be able to run a marathon straight off. It takes research, preparation, and an understanding of the state of my body at the outset. Then I’ll need a graduated training programme which has been designed to move me from where I am now towards my goal. Similarly, a business plan which is based on ‘tomorrow we’ll be x’ is also designed to fail. Do you have the necessary infrastructure, do your people need additional skills training, are your suppliers able to meet your new priorities? In short, what steps do you need to take to have a chance of turning the business around?

Commitment. If I’m to meet my new goals I need to be committed to change. This commitment rests on a deep understanding not only of the existing state of play but also of valid reasons why change is necessary. In business, change fatigue is a very real thing. It occurs when leaders jump on a new idea, fail to put the necessary resources behind it and then drop it when the next toy comes out of the business playbook. Unless the board and senior management are fully engaged with the plan and are prepared to commit the necessary resources to it then it is doomed to failure.

Conditions change. The world is not static. Political, social and environmental factors continuously impact on the business landscape whilst technological change can transform outlooks overnight. The best plans are those which recognise the potential for change and are designed with an element of flexibility alongside regular review points. Sometimes we have to accept that even the best new year resolutions don’t come to fruition because they have been supplanted by the need to react to a changing landscape.

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