Monday, January 4, 2010

Pragmatic Advice for the Coming Year….

The winter solstice is a time for reflection and rejuvenation. Just as we look toward spring, we also look toward an improved new year. No matter how well or poorly we did in the last year, we want to improve.

How New Year's resolutions are maintained as time goes on:
- past the first week: 75%
- past 2 weeks: 71%
- after one month: 64%
- after 6 months: 46%

While a lot of people who make New Year's resolutions do break them, research shows that making resolutions is useful. People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don't explicitly make resolutions.

So although you may not actually achieve your stated goal, simply making a goal will improve your performance against it. The fact that you will take the time to review your financial performance throughout 2009 and set a goal to improve it will improve your chances of having more success in 2010. The review and subsequent goal setting doesn't have to be sophisticated. Many times a business makes the review and planning process so burdensome that the process itself renders the results ineffective.

I would set no more than five specific goals with measurable milestones. If you can't measure it, you can't manage it. Too many goals may drive your business toward fragmentation as employees work to achieve disparate objectives. Now make them public. Create a measuring rod, something that will display results against goals in an intuitive way. Pie charts and thermometers are usually very good graphical displays of performance. Update them regularly.

Here is a caveat to keep in mind… when you stop measuring it is a sure sign that you are not performing. People get discourage when things aren't going as planned. Rather than review the plan, make adjustments where required and move on, they abandon the plan as not useful. So if you find yourself not tracking your results, it just might mean that your original plan needs review. Don't give up… Reassess….

Here is one other helpful hint…. Many times investing in outside expertise can dramatically improve results. An impartial third party may see thing you don't. Look for the payback. If bringing in a third party isn't going to improve performance more than the cost, don't do it. But don't assume because you don't see the payback, it's not there. Understand the difference between data, information and intelligence.

Whatever you do, don't procrastinate. Even a poor plan put in action is better than a great plan that never sees the light of day. You can adjust a poor plan as new information becomes available.