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deming, improvement, leadership, lean, management, transformation

A Lean Approach to New Year’s Resolutions

2015 has arrived, and for many it’s time to start working on the resolutions we’ve made to address personal problems and make life better for the future.  Despite best efforts, though, many of us will end up abandoning our resolutions and try again next year.

I was thinking about how common it is to fail with resolutions and wondered how a lean approach may help the process.  When you think about it, resolutions are about solving problems, so why not approach them with a kaizen mindset and put serious effort this year into being successful.  Who knows . . . we may end up feeling good about ourselves and actually come up with some different resolutions next year.

Develop the Plan

Once you’ve clarified the resolution and understand exactly what it is you want to accomplish, develop the plan to get you there.  If you want to lose weight, how are you going to do it?  Is it through exercise, diet, better quality sleep, or a combination of actions?  A lean mindset would guide you to not take on too much at one time, so it’s important to break down the problem and address the most important areas first.

Rather than get too detailed with the plan for the entire year, though, start with specific actions for the next month or two and keep things more general further into the future.  Also, be aware of becoming obsessed with the plan – the key is to start doing something, so if you find yourself spending too much time making a plan, you’re probably stalling.

Create a Dashboard

Create a simple dashboard to measure progress with your plan and ultimate goal.  If you decide to exercise to lose weight, measure how much you are actually doing it compared to your plan.  Your dashboard should also include a measure of your ultimate objective (e.g., your actual weight) to make sure that your actions lead to success.

As in a business setting, you are trying to be honest with yourself and make your problems visible.  If you are not exercising as planned, for example, or you are but not losing weight, you need to see it so you can do something about it.

Address Your Problems

Suppose you planned to exercise five times each week but your dashboard shows that you are only doing it 2-3 times.  Rather than relying on trying harder, you need to figure out why you’re not exercising as planned.  Understand what is interfering with exercising regularly and develop countermeasures to correct the root cause of the problem.  If you come to the conclusion that the target was too aggressive, you need to figure out whether less exercise will get you to your objective of losing the desires amount of weight.

A Shift in Thinking

Just as best efforts won’t lead to success in a business, trying harder will not lead to personal success.  Without a method that you continually check and adjust, your chances of success are likely to be fairly small.

I’m not suggesting going overboard with the process and creating A3s and fancy charts to measure your progress.  Approaching a resolution in a simple way with a lean mindset, however can make the effort more interesting and who knows, you may even learn something to take back to the workplace.

About Gregg Stocker

Gregg Stocker is a lean advisor for Hess Corporation. He possesses over 20 years experience in a variety of disciplines including operations, manufacturing, human resources, quality, and strategic planning, and has worked in manufacturing, service, and oil & gas industries. He has extensive international experience, including successfully leading an $65 million business in The Netherlands. He authored the book, “Avoiding the Corporate Death Spiral: Recognizing & Eliminating the Signs of Decline,” (Quality Press, 2006) and was a contributing author to "The Lean Handbook," (Quality Press, 2012). Gregg is a frequent speaker and recognized expert in business and performance improvement having been interviewed on television, radio, and in a number of newspaper and magazine articles including The New York Times, Washington Post, BusinessWeek, and InformationWeek. Gregg has implemented change in organizations ranging in size from $10 million to more than $100 billion. He is a team-oriented leader who achieves results by improving teamwork, focus, and communication throughout the organization.


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