How to Make an Organization’s New Year’s Resolutions Stick

Organizations new year resolution

I make New Year’s resolutions with the best of intentions. I really do. I’m sure we all do. And then life happens. Sometimes they stick, often they don’t. But it’s the thought that counts…right?!? No, not really. Saying and doing are two entirely different things. People who excel in this world are generally those who put their money where their mouth is. And the same holds true for organizations. Of this, I am sure…

Organizations make New Year’s resolutions all the time. They show up in budgets, goals, and strategic plans. They are often launched in a flourish of sparkly communications and with a renewed optimism. “This indeed will be a new (and better) year.” And then life happens. Again.

We’ve been working with organizations to get and stay intentional about managing their workplace cultures for close to four years. While this starts with an employee survey that produces the data, analytics, and findings that get the organization focused on high-impact priorities, it continues with a purposeful process for actually doing something with those priorities. It’s one we’ve refined over time. It works. It turns out that the essence of this process is all about keeping our new year’s resolutions.

If you don’t know anything about Agile Software Development principles, I’d highly recommend you do a little research. It turns out those principles apply almost without exception to the world of workplace culture management. In fact, we HR, employee engagement, talent management, organizational development, employee experience, culture enthusiasts can learn A LOT about how to move the needle from those who develop great software today. I’m here to argue that if you manage your employee experience and workplace culture like leading-edge developers create technology today, you’d start to make a difference unparalleled. At the very least, you’d get a lot better at putting your money where your mouth is, building momentum, and fueling growth.

To make this easy, we’ve adapted and adopted The Agile Manifesto & Principles for Culture & Employee Engagement. We’ve broken it up into two parts. Part one focuses on the four values of the agile software manifesto as adapted for culture and employee engagement. It reads as follows. Feel free to share it, print it off, post it in your lobby, put it on t-shirts, get it tattooed to your back. And if after reading it you’re skeptical, let me know. I’ll introduce you to any number of HR Leaders out there who themselves have deployed this Manifesto with tremendous success.

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The 4 Values of The Agile Software Manifesto: This is what will drive our success. (Adapted for Culture & Employee Engagement)

1. Individuals and Interactions Over Processes and Tools
Can we all just get together and have a conversation? Let’s stop pushing emails. Pick up the phone, convene a group, have a good old-fashioned ‘sit down.’ If knowledge is power, go to the knowledge. Your people have it. What they know, your systems and tools don’t. And most of those tools – sorry to say – are not designed to pivot, adapt, and meld with the speed of change our consumers, our market, and our people demand. Powwow, people.

2. Working Culture Over Comprehensive Documentation
Why do we feel so compelled – still – to document everything? Well, because it has to be reviewed, edited, reviewed again, edited again, opined on, and then ultimately approved. Your culture is an ecosystem – it lives and breaths. If you take too much time charting its course, it will have already moved on without you. This doesn’t mean you don’t have to have some stuff on paper. It just means you don’t have to create a “user’s manual” with 200 pages, a table of contents, and an index. No one will read it anyway (#TLDR). Focus on the experience, not the documentation surrounding it.

3. Employee Collaboration Over Employee Delivery
The distinction here is slight but extremely important. Under a traditional model, the powers to go behind closed doors, make decisions on behalf of employees, design the product/solution, and then deliver it to them. In this case, the Development Team and the Customer are distinct and separate entities up until the project is done. Your customers (i.e. employees) should be involved in every step of the way. Their input should be solicited early and often. And all of that should happen while the product (culture) is being developed…not after it’s delivered.

4. Responding to Change Over Following a Plan
You know what they say about best-laid plans. Nowhere is this more apt than in the workplace. People – human beings – and the cultures in which they operate are fickle. They’re restless, ambitious, rarely satisfied. Things change, they evolve. This is the way you want it to be. And if you don’t, too bad…it’s going to be that way. Get better at anticipating, predicting, and responding to change. If you plan, make it succinct and highly focused on a quick win. Get that quick win done. And then move on to the next thing. The mistake we make is not adjusting our priorities with the changing times. We need to be willing to say to ourselves, “that’s no longer important, let’s go work on this instead.”

As you can see, all of these things are related and feed off of one another. Agile is a mindset, not just a methodology. It takes some time for it to stick; just don’t give up before you’ve given it a fair shot. Doing so will require more than simply posting these Values and Principles. But it’s an awesome place to start. Imagine for a moment what your workforce would think when you told them you’re actually deploying a proven methodology to get and stay intentional about managing culture and the employee engagement it drives? The fact that you’ve even thought of doing so is more than most organizations will ever be able to say. Now, put your money where your mouth is and keep those 2019 Resolutions!

If you love how we applied the agile manifesto to managing culture and employee engagement, then check back in January 2019 for part two when we go a step further in “Using the 12 Principles of Agile Software Development  to Drive Employee Engagement.”

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