New Year, Old Habits

POST DATE Jan 08, 2016

AUTHOR Udo Jahn

During the holiday season, we spend a lot of time with friends and family to celebrate and catch up. Many of us do this year-round, but it really gets intense near the end of December. I love that time of year because I take time to slow down and indulge in life’s little pleasures. But once the festivities are over, we begin to regret how much we indulged. We resolve to turn over a new leaf in the New Year. This usually includes what we would term “healthier living”. Healthier living usually means we want to exercise more (chances are we’ve been neglecting that from autumn onward), or we want to change our diet to contain more wholesome foods.

If you belong to a gym, you will realize that you are not the only one making a change. The gym is often sparsely populated throughout December, but then January rolls around and suddenly every machine or weight is in use. Forget about getting a spot at your usual yoga class. The interesting thing is that by the beginning of February, the crowds that eagerly arrived in January wanting a healthier lifestyle begin to drift away, and by March we are back to the mid-autumn half full gym. What happened? I guess people lose interest or just decide to abandon their New Year’s resolution. I have seen this cycle happen for many years. It’s like we get on a roll for positive change and after awhile we lose interest, or find it inconvenient.

Businesses are very much the same way. They find themselves in a situation where they are less than competitive. They have fallen into habits that cause them to not keep up with the competition. This could be for many reasons, such as a refusal to continuously invest in their business to keep their equipment running smoothly, or a refusal to invest in their people. One day they realize what they’re doing isn’t working, and firmly decide to take action. 

These businesses decide to create a plan to improve, and begin a flurry of new initiatives and interactions with their people/customers/suppliers, etc. They intensify their activities to create a positive change in their business. But just like our gym members above, after time they begin to lose interest in their plan, or just plain scare themselves when they see that the task ahead is monumental. They stop implementing their plan for change, just like our people who fall off at the gym and their quest for a healthier lifestyle. The change these businesses and people have embarked on is not sustainable. I bet we all know a few reasons why. Spending a lot of time and effort before anything changes? That sounds terrible, who would want to do that?

Many employees work for companies whose markets, or customers, erode. Those employees want to take action, and they’re on board with a new plan for change. They see and participate in a flurry of activity directed at improving the company. However, they become disillusioned when management abandons the plan, typically when they lose interest in either how long it’s taking to see change, or how much effort is required. The frustration felt by employees when this happens is passed on to customers, through a disinterest in their roles and duties and a feeling of defeat. When the customers feel they are being neglected, then the issues the company had in the beginning just get worse. A vicious cycle emerges. 

Our resolutions to change our lifestyle start and stop the same way. We see the effect of this lack of commitment both in our personal lives, and our business lives. Personally, if we do not have a commitment to making things such as our health better, we can develop some pretty severe problems in the long run. Likewise, if we do not commit to making changes that are necessary to our business’ success and carry them through, our business may then become only a footnote in an archived legal document that details its demise.

Having a commitment to change, as well as a commitment to sustain the change, will improve both our personal and business health. So let’s get started now – make your personal and business resolutions, but don’t forget about all the hard work to come, and make sure to commit yourself fully to implementing the change you seek.

Author: Udo Jahn

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