January 5, 2009 Comments Off on Resolutions

It’s time for our annual exercise in self-delusion: making New Year resolutions. Let’s get the personal ones out of the way first. There are three major groups:

1)    Getting healthier (includes joining a gym, quitting smoking and/or drinking)

2)    Becoming a better person (includes spending more time with family, getting organised, being more spiritual, being more charitable, going green)

3)    Managing money (includes getting out of debt, spending less, quitting gambling)

 The analytical reader will point out that some of these are mutually exclusive i.e. spending less and joining a gym? That’s the nature of resolutions – they start out as prodigious challenges but always contain a hidden ‘out’ which, when inevitably invoked, allows us a plausible and dignified surrender as in

I didn’t like what I was becoming

Hey! Tobacco company workers need to make a living, too

You married a slob so I’ll stay that way for your sake

I fell off the wagon the night Petruzelli annihilated Kimbo Slice

Corporate resolutions are somewhat different from personal resolutions. For starters, they flush more money down the drain. They may also confuse employees, tie up resources, bewilder customers, and waste time. Here are nine resolutions that shouldn’t appear on any business owner’s list and one resolution that must:

  1. Engage employees more efficiently and its corollary, conduct regular meetings
  2. Delegate more and its corollary, throw your brightest employees into the deep end
  3. Invest in learning and its corollary, get everyone identically certified
  4. Promote your company and its corollary, tell your customers about resolution #3
  5. Give back to the community and its corollary, join a volunteer group
  6. Keep an eye on costs and its corollary, make do with what you have
  7. Plan thoroughly and its corollary, don’t implement until you’re 100% sure
  8. Embed consensual decision making and its corollary, being the boss is everyone’s job
  9. Offer the best prices and its corollary, beat the competition every time

Yes, all the above must be avoided. Resist their alluring messages of employee development, team spirit, rational goal setting, cost management, winning against the competition, and community participation. You will achieve diddly squat. Here’s why:

  1. Regularly scheduled meetings (as in check-ins, follow-ups, keeping track, and updates) are very nearly useless. At best, they signify a weak-kneed inability to let others get the job done. At worst, they force people to make up stuff when there’s nothing new to report. Instead, agree reporting milestones in advance. Make sure these are about results, not actions (you want to know what was achieved, not what was done to get there).
  2. Don’t delegate just to stress-check an employee. The result will tell you nothing. In fact, if you really understand your job, you won’t have to delegate anything because the only stuff on your desk will be the stuff only you can handle.
  3. Learning for the sake of getting a few letters after your name is pointless. It’s worthless if the learning needs of everyone are expected to be exactly the same. It shows you are not focussing on individual capabilities and are building a team of clones.
  4. Please don’t tell your customers that your employees are clones. You’ll scare them to death.
  5. Do community work on your personal time. However, you will get some mileage out of getting a group of employees to do something together.
  6. Don’t cut corners with worn out equipment or overworked employees. You’ll end up paying more in the long run.
  7. If you wait until you’re 100% certain of everything, you’ll miss the right moment to act. Move when you’re 75% to 80% sure. How do you know you’re “80% sure” in terms of planning? It’s when your business smarts tell you that you have enough information to fire up. Trust your instincts. You’ll figure out the balance 20% along the way.
  8. You’re the boss. Employees feel better when you assume a strong leadership position. It’s OK to listen to opinions but don’t get everyone around a table every time a decision has to be made. Consensus by committee leads to paralysis by analysis.
  9. Your customers buy value. Don’t confuse them with pricing. Differentiation sells better than price. You’re in the business of confidently providing peace of mind. Cost is a secondary issue. Burnish your strategic value proposition, not your price-lists.

And the one corporate resolution you must make and keep: Revisit (or create) a comprehensive disaster recovery plan. You’re in the business of fixing disasters. Don’t let one take you down.

Best wishes for 2009!


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