#69: New Year's resolutions

In this episode I talk about the similarities between our New Year resolutions and major business initiatives; why we set them, why they are attractive and why they often fail.

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Published: Wed, 13 Jan 2021 17:09:01 GMT


[00:00:35] Hello and welcome back to the Better ROI from Software Development podcast.

[00:00:41] We're a little distance into January now. And by now, our New Year's resolutions may still be fresh in our mind - and for some of us, we may have already broken them.

[00:00:52] In this episode, I wanted to talk about New Year's resolutions and similarities to how sometimes we engage and operate business initiatives.

[00:01:03] New Year's resolutions - most of us make them- very few of us keep them. An article in Forbes was quoted as saying approximately 80 per cent of New Year's resolutions fail. Personally, mine are probably higher - and I've still not managed to lose the way that I intend.

[00:01:21] But why is it they fail?

[00:01:25] Well, we often set our New Year's resolutions as a stretch goal, something that we feel is quite attractive, something that's quite challenging.

[00:01:32] But unfortunately, often we're targeting the wrong things. We might measure the wrong things. So for me, for example, I may try and measure and target weight loss - whereas in fact, maybe I should be looking at measuring and targeting miles run - activity rather than the outcome.

[00:01:51] It's also difficult to stick to those New Year's resolutions as our priorities change throughout the year.

[00:01:58] Something that may seem like a very desirable thing at the beginning of the year, maybe two, three, four months in, suddenly it may not be as high on my list of things I need to do. Very quickly they can fall by the wayside.

[00:02:16] And I find big business initiatives have a lot of similarities. Obviously, I'm mainly talking about big software projects from my own experience, but it isn't limited to them.

[00:02:28] Any time as a business, we're trying to make some big business initiative, there's a lot of similarities with exactly the same thing as our New Year's resolutions.

[00:02:39] We start out with some massive stretch goal. We want it to be an audacious goal. We want it to be attractive. We want it to provide us with prestige as individuals. We want to be able to have bragging rights. And who knows, maybe it also helps us with promotion prospects or jobs later on in our career.

[00:03:00] And similar to New Year's resolutions, we may be tying them to yearly or quarterly initiatives. we're basing them on a specific trigger - some form of important event within our potentially financial or maybe sales calendar.

[00:03:17] But, of course, they suffer from the same problems as our New Year's resolutions.

[00:03:22] We generally target the wrong thing, we generally measure the wrong thing. So we may be looking at potentially maybe revenue vs. activities that go into producing revenue.

[00:03:33] And of course, most importantly, our priorities will change.

[00:03:36] While setting big initiatives out are audacious and worthwhile, we may find that those priorities underpinning them are no longer there one month, two, three months into the actual effort.

[00:03:55] So how do we get better with our New Year's resolutions and our business initiatives?

[00:04:01] It's fine to have an overarching direction, a direction where you want to take maybe the business or the organisation.

[00:04:08] However we should be doing is focussing on short term deliverables, short term goals, steps on the journey.

[00:04:16] We should be looking at making sure that we have regular reviews.

[00:04:21] We need to be making sure that we're still on track for what the business needs now, not what we may have decided one, two, three, six months ago. We need to make sure that it's valid for where the business is and what it's doing at this point in time and what it needs.

[00:04:38] Having those regular reviews allows us to change course quickly and allows us to make course corrections. It means that we can handle change quickly, easily and well.

[00:04:51] Handling change is possibly one of the most important things a business can do.

[00:04:57] It allows us to start and stop things at any time. We can make a decision as to whether or not this needs to be done now based on our current priorities, not on priorities that were maybe set a number of months ago.

[00:05:12] Like everything, it makes much more sense to start the work when we need to start it. Not way for a special date like a year or a quarter or even our New Year's resolution.

[00:05:24] If you need to do something, start that work now. The best time to plant an acorn is 10 years ago. If you didn't do it then, the best time is now.

[00:05:38] Also, by being able to break down our goals into much more smaller, much more manageable chunks, they're much more achievable.

[00:05:48] We gain a sense of well-being, a sense of accomplishment, by being able to hit them and be able to achieve them.

[00:05:57] With some initiatives or even on New Year's resolution being so large, sometimes it's very difficult to see if we're actually making progress against it.

[00:06:05] By breaking it down to much more smaller, manageable goals, we're in a position to feel the excitement, we feel the reward of actually having reached it.

[00:06:16] Completing those goals makes us feel good - and that really is something at the heart of a lot of agile software practises. Because they work in small chunks, the team feeling that endorphin rush of a job well done on a constant cadence, whether that be daily, weekly or maybe at worst monthly, helps to keep them engaged, helps them keep them feel as if the work they're doing is meaningful - and that helps to drive their intrinsic motivators.

[00:06:49] In this episode, I've talked about New Year's resolutions and tied them back to business initiative, especially large software projects.

[00:06:57] Both should be small and focussed. They should be measurable and we should be reviewing them on a regular basis.

[00:07:04] We should be making sure that we know what we're aiming for.

[00:07:07] We should make sure that we've got measurable, achievable goals in short time spans, reviewing whether we've hit them, and repeat. Keep reviewing, keep looking at whether or not we're on target for what would you like to do.

[00:07:20] And indeed, whether that target is still correct - adjust as appropriate given the priorities both in our home lives and in our business opportunities.

[00:07:32] Thank you very much for listening. And I look forward to speaking to you again next week.