How to Approach Your Business Resolutions Like a Project Manager

Have you resolved to make some improvements in your business this year? You’re not alone. The practice of setting New Year’s Resolutions is a time-honored tradition that a lot of people really enjoy. In fact, nearly half of all Americans set New Year’s resolutions. Some popular choices for resolutions that impact professional performance or business performance are learning new skills, diversifying and expanding into a different sector, getting and staying more organized, creating a culture of data integrity, and more. A lot of people look at the start of the year as a great time to jumpstart new business ventures with reinvigorated focus and determination after the holiday season. But there’s just one problem: resolutions aren’t necessarily the best business strategy. 

What are common resolution pitfalls?

Why is it so difficult to rely on resolutions? Like a lot of goals, resolutions aren’t always approached in a practical way. According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, only 46% of people who set New Year’s resolutions were successful. If less than half of the resolutions made are achieved, it’s worth reexamining our approach. When it comes to business resolutions, a more reliable and effective method for making sure you’re within that 46% of successful resolution setters is to approach your goals for the New Year less like a resolver and more like a Project Manager. 

How can you approach your business resolutions like a project manager?

Step 1: Create a focused execution strategy

The first step that every Project Manager recommends at the beginning of a new project is creating a focused execution strategy. This involves clearly defining goals. What does success look like for your business resolution? What steps need to be taken to achieve that level of success? If you’re having a hard time figuring out what steps need to be taken to reach your end goal, a great strategy is to plan backwards. Break down large, lofty goals into smaller, actionable steps and plan in reverse from the deadline you have in mind. 

Step 2: Manage expectations and avoid scope creep

For most business resolutions, the timeframe in mind is a year. But this is the perfect time to make sure you’ve set an achievable deadline for your specific goal. In order to effectively manage your expectations like a Project Manager, you need to evaluate the resources and talent you have on hand. Is your execution strategy possible once you factor in your team’s existing workload and skillsets? Does anyone need to be hired or trained in order to achieve this goal?  

Also, have you planned for the inevitable scope creep that happens along the way? If you’re setting tight deadlines at the beginning of the year in order to achieve a lofty deadline down the road without allotting additional time for changes, roadblocks, or other priorities taking precedence over this business resolution, you may need to rework your existing execution strategy to create breathing room. 

Step 3: Establish ownership and get everyone on the same page

Now that you’ve created a focused execution strategy and evaluated it so that it’s realistic and accounts for potential scope creep, it’s time to get everyone on the same page. Sharing your business resolution—even if it’s something that only you will be working on—can help keep you accountable and make the overall goal more achievable.  

More often than not, in order to accomplish a business resolution, you’ll need help from a dedicated team. Because you’ve taken the time to create an execution strategy, you probably know who will be best suited to helping you achieve this goal. Make sure each task that needs to be accomplished has an owner. This way, nothing will fall between the cracks and, if it does, you’ll know who to speak to in order to get the goal back on track before the final deadline. 

It’s also important to go beyond the basics of getting everyone on the same page. Instead of only sharing what the project requires, you should also share the why behind it. Why did you choose this business resolution? If it’s achieved, what could that mean for your business as a whole or for your employees? Project Managers know that, in order to create and maintain motivation throughout the lifespan of a longer project, it’s important to share the why’s as well as the how’s. Getting everyone up to speed will help your team feel like they’re not just contributing to the larger business goal. Instead, you’re including them as stakeholders in a broader mission for success. 

Step 4: Identify risks and challenges

Now that everyone is on the same page, knows which part of the goal they own, and knows the focused execution strategy it’s time to identify any risks and challenges that might arise as you begin to tackle this business resolution. Every Project Manager is familiar with unexpected challenges occurring along the way—but there are some that you can anticipate ahead of time. 

Make a shortlist of potential risk factors at the start of the project to avoid as many slowdowns as you can. As you and your team begin working towards the successful completion of your business resolution, look for common roadblocks and don’t let the inevitable challenges dampen your spirits. According to research conducted by Edward Locke, a leader in goal setting theory, who surveyed over a decade’s worth of laboratory and field studies on the effects of goal setting and performance, “over 90% of the time, goals that were specific and challenging, but not overly challenging, led to higher performance when compared to easy goals or goals that were too generic such as a goal to do your best.” If challenges exist and aren’t too cumbersome, your business resolution is more likely to be completed. 

Step 5: Set up processes and systems that emphasize accountability

If you’ve followed the previous steps, you’ve already used some of the best tools in a Project Manager’s toolbelt to establish accountability. You’ve assigned specific project owners to tasks that are essential in order to achieve your business resolution. You’ve also gotten everyone on the same page about what needs to be done and why it needs to be done. One final way that you can emphasize accountability as you take your business resolutions from lofty dreams to actionable, achievable goals is by setting up processes and systems that keep everyone on track. 

You know what deadlines you’re trying to reach, but do you know which tools you’ll need to  get there? For example, if you’re trying to get a handle on your disorganized inventory which is spread here, there, and everywhere, do you need to go beyond your existing inventory management process? Do additional steps need to be implemented into your existing process or does the whole thing need a complete overhaul including a system that can help manage it all and save you time and money? See where the cracks in your continuous business processes lie and figure out what systems or changes you can use to fill the gaps. 

Step 6: Frequently monitor progress and collect effective data

Have you heard the phrase “what gets measured gets managed”? This popular business advice definitely applies to your business resolutions. The final step that most Project Managers swear by when attempting to take a project from ideation to completion is to frequently monitor progress and collect effective data along the way, measuring key markers to determine if a successful outcome has been achieved. This is especially important if the business resolutions you’ve set look less like a project that could be completed in a few months’ time and more like a process that will need to be executed and maintained over the long haul. 

People often fail to achieve their business goals because they’ll put their best foot forward and slowly things will be dropped, missed, or ignored. It’s easy to miss important steps when there’s no one in charge of monitoring continued success. Additionally, in order to effectively monitor progress you need to have data that tells a complete story. This is incredibly challenging when your business is using a smattering of systems that don’t talk to each other or capture the data you really need. In order to ensure your business resolutions are achieved, utilizing software that collects accurate and effective data is essential

If you follow these steps, you will have a much higher chance of completing the New Years resolutions that you set for your business than the average resolver. Some of these steps can also apply when tackling your personal resolutions as well. 

We wish you and your business well as we begin the New Year. If your business resolution involves implementing workflow automation, gathering effective data, getting a handle on your inventory, and more, our software can help you achieve these aims. Learn more about how Tigerpaw can help

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