New Year’s Resolutions

Tom Peters

It’s the new year. Time for those resolutions, managers. You know, the blue-sky, wild-and-wooly stuff, like really “putting people first,” really “making quality and service priority number one,” really “getting out and about each day.” Maybe, just maybe, this year you will keep such far-fetched resolutions. Hence, my suggestions.

CUSTOMERS. Call three customers in the next 72 hours and ask them, “How’d we do in ’87, what can we do better in ’88?” Circulate notes on the calls, and encourage everyone to do the same thing and share their results within 14 days (customers, for staff groups, can mean other functions that they serve, though I urge such groups to call actual end users, too).

In the next seven days, send three thank-you notes to customers for new or extended business; respond personally to one complaint from a customer in the next 14 days. Send three thank-you notes in the next 14 days to employees who went above and beyond the call of duty in providing responsiveness or service to a customer. At the next staff meeting, begin by asking everyone to share their top two success stories from 1987, involving the improvement of service and quality; invite the heroes who pulled off these feats to the meeting.

Call the principal contact at one least account in the next 14 days, and ask to meet with him or her. Add one new “Happy Customers, Sad Customers” feature to your company or department newsletter, starting with the next issue.

Develop one new measure of an important intangible attribute of quality and service for each major product or service in the next 30 days; post progress on this performance measure conspicuously. Include plans for “strategic listening” and “quality and service measurement” in your 1989 strategic review for each product, product family and business unit.

Finally, in indelible ink, write on the cuff of each one of your $100 monogrammed shirts (or bib overalls, as the case may be), “Customer Perception Is Really Everything.”

PEOPLE. In the next 96 hours, send four thank-you notes to front-line employees for a job well done; repeat every 96 hours thereafter, for the rest of your life. No less than half of these notes should go to folks in other departments or divisions who have helped your department do its job better. This week, call each of your direct reports, at home, and thank them for their contributions in 1987.

To department managers with 25 or more people: In the next 90 days, start an employee-edited newsletter (four pages, minimum), mostly devoted to small, positive achievements. Within the next 21 days, ask ten front-line employees to an informal breakfast or lunch, at which you should ask them what one thing you can do for them in 1988.

Eliminate one silly regulation or one useless report in the next 72 hours. Start, within the month, giving one, perhaps humorous, award at each staff meeting, for the most creative act of bureaucracy reduction.

Attend, in the next 90 days, at least one full day of a entry-level, front-line worker training program. Each 120 days starting now, spend one full shift working a different front-line job; once every 18 months (schedule it now), spend one full week working a front-line job. Finally, dunk your head in a bucket of cold water (perhaps permanently) if your front-line training budget growth this year is not at least twice as high as the growth of the capital/hardware budget.

INNOVATION. Put kaizen (the Japanese word for the pursuit of constant improvement at all levels in the organization) on everyone’s goal list. Write one “neat idea” thank-you note to an employee each week for a little improvement-aimed experiment you come upon at the front line. Put a kaizen “nifty, quick-and-dirty experiments” column in the newsletter, starting with the next issue (a front-line employee should research the feature).

Once a month at your staff meeting, add two special awards. First, the “failure of the month,” which constitutes recognition for a good try that bombed. Also add a monthly award for “best improvement idea swiped from a competitor (legally, of course) or noncompetitor.”

LEADERSHIP. Set one half day per week aside for relatively aimless ambling, with your own gang, at another function, or with a customer, distributor, etc. Yes, I know you’ve promised to do this every New Year’s for the last umpteen years, but take the vow again. The difference this year: Ask your closest colleague to make you the bait in a Lake Champlain ice-fishing contest if you don’t follow through. Lastly, on your other monogrammed sleeve, inscribe in red indelible ink, “mouth shut, ears open—that’s my job.”

If you don’t do all of the above 26 things, at least, please, do one. Then conclude your preparation for the new year by writing 50 times on the closest blackboard, “Competitiveness is a management issue and a management opportunity. I will neither blame Washington nor the work force for my/our problems. I will always remember that the keys to success are matchless quality and service, obtained through empowered and well-trained front-line people pursuing constant improvement. And I will do one new thing each day to underscore my commitment to this philosophy of the obvious.”

Happy revolution!

(c) 1987 TPG Communications.

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