It’s the new year again, and if you are like most people, you’ve set some personal goals and resolutions that may, if not done correctly, have the lifespan of a fruit fly.

Resolutions are the path to improvement, and your involvement with quality makes the desire to improve a natural one. The problem with how New Year’s resolutions are traditionally undertaken is that they end up adding to already existing stress by encouraging immediate results to what are often long-term issues. The person who wants to lose 20 pounds will join a gym and may only last one month because he doesn’t experience rapid weight loss. The truth is that such an endeavor often requires months of hard work.

Likewise, companies may be tempted this time of year to make resolutions on increasing quality or productivity, lowering costs or scrap, or some other manufacturing improvement. Those in charge of these endeavors may lose enthusiasm for them after a short while if they fail to understand the time commitment that usually surrounds substantive improvement.

Avoiding personal and professional “New Year’s resolution failure” can be accomplished by keeping some simple ideas in mind.

First, start small. Many resolutions fail because people and companies expect too much too soon. Seemingly simple resolutions may be too large in their scope. A seemingly simple resolution for improvement may, on closer examination, require large-scale changes in processes, operator training or capital investment to achieve the desired results. If the resolution is simple, you are more likely to see results sooner and stay motivated to accomplish the larger goal.

Secondly, don’t start on January 1. For some reason, there is the notion that all resolutions must start on New Year’s Day. More often than not, resolutions started on that date fail. The important idea is that you work toward improvement beginning on some day. Pick February 2 (Groundhog Day), April 1 (April Fool’s Day) or January 8 (Elvis Presley’s birthday). At Quality Magazine, we constantly look for ways to better serve you year round.

Finally, make one change. Too large of a “wish list” results in spending all of one’s time and energy on many problems while little progress is made on any of the listed goals. Instead, spend all your resources on one problem where results will be more evident. Pick one thing you want to improve and stick to it. When you finish the first problem, go to the next.

For those involved in Six Sigma, lean and other quality projects, these recommendations should seem familiar. If they do, then you are off to a good start. The challenge for many, even those to whom these ideas are self-evident, is avoiding the pressure to do too much too soon. If that happens, just like joining the gym, you’ll be one of the many whom regulars see in January but are gone by February.

What is your New Year’s resolution and how
do you plan to keep it? Let me know at
<a href="http://www.qualitymag.com/cgi-bin/ntlinktrack.exe?mailto:williamst@qualitymag.com" target="_blank">williamst@qualitymag.com</a>.