VITAL SIGNS: Resolutions with a kick

VITAL SIGNS: Resolutions with a kick - Being a manager means you need a better class of new year resolution.

by PETER YORK, in his persona as Peter Wallis, is managing directorof consultants SRU; e-mail: peter@sru.co.uk
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Being a manager means you need a better class of new year resolution.

Everyone makes the simple negative one-off resolves (booze, fags, pigging out); everyone resolves to work out or to start a nice little course.

You need something more conceptual, couched in business school language.

Your resolutions should have something of the strategic about them. They should, for instance, have a meta-resolution at their head, an overall objective with elegant sub-sets. Much should be interactive and flexible with a bio-feedback element. Your resolution cascade should be continuously monitored. It must connect through to January 2002 and January 2003. Like Miss Piggy, it must offer a Guide to Life. Think big.

You've got a personal five-year plan, of course, so now's the time to address it, to consider dramatic kick-start action, to build in success criteria and review dates. It's time to decide whether it's all linear and gradualist or whether you could do with a bit of calculated bongo action - something to help you and the system decide whether you're up or out this year.

Bongo action, I should explain, is an idea originated in Finland and it derives from ways of testing telecoms systems for freak incidents, which in turn becomes a metaphor for a way of testing corporate structures and your role in them. The idea is that you do something ostensibly quite batty - stripping off like the Ikea man with the tattoos, for instance - to show a business truth, demonstrating your insane devotion to the corporate cause. It'll be calculated because you'll have your cover story ready, you'll have chosen your time and you'll know what you're bargaining for. And you'll know that, whatever it is, it isn't a hanging offence.

And you'll have seen the head-hunters in advance. That's the Finnish manoeuvre, anyway.

This is the year, for instance, when you decide whether to start Newco, so your resolution details what the process should be, what you should know by when and how you'll establish what head and heart have to say.

That's modern management.

It might not be Newco. It might simply be going freelance. If the urge is uncontrollable, work out what one thing will get you out there, and then resolve to do it. You could try your first bit of experimental moonlighting.

Of course it's a risk, that's why you have to nerve yourself up to it.

Resolve to experiment with all of those resolutions and work out how to do it, from day one, so there's no backing down.

If, for instance, it's your work/ life balance - finding time for me/my family/the things I care about/quality time - you need to know just how much Life you can really take. It means bringing your partner into the resolution - they'll have to devise the experiment, test your resolve, monitor it, help you determine what feels right. You might be a thoroughly unbalanced person who needs that Long Hours Culture to give you any momentum.

If you get a life you might become a slug.

While you're planning all this strategic stuff it's worth building in a couple of no-brainers, easy wins, low-hanging fruit, to give you something tangible while your life is coming right.

Clearing your desk every night is the simplest way of going paperless, so get some rubbish bags and do it yourself. Life will seem less clotted that way. Another crunchy filler is to buy yourself some toys - a new WAP phone, an organiser, a clutch of executive small appliances. It isn't that they'll change your life, it's that they won't. You'll be through them, bored, in a day. You'll have been there, done that.

That might help if this is the year you've resolved to really understand the new technologies, to get inside them, just like the Intel advertising.

The toys are a useful reminder that the new technology is entirely unmysterious and transitional. When everything's voice-activated embedded chips and the net talks back to you in Kathy Burke's voice though the TV, you won't be fretting. Get it over with quickly.

Back to the big stuff. Much of that - framing the big resolutions properly - means what Americans call getting in touch with yourself/your feelings/your feminine side/your elemental self. To achieve the forensic clarity that allows you to write one of those two-minute What I Really Want plans, you have to prepare rigorously by getting completely drunk. That way your priorities will write themselves. And, of course, come March, you can resolve to join a gym. They'll be empty by then.

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