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The Effectiveness-Lab

2017 – Business Un-usual? Series 2 of 4

This week the Effectiveness lab discusses the framework for delivering effective individual new year resolutions

A productive, effective, and efficient 2017
A productive, effective, and efficient 2017
Credit: journalism

Very aware of the fact that resolutions are abandoned only a few days into the new year, we have to assume that it continues to be ‘2017 business un-usual’ for you.  If not, this blog should help you to more feasibly think through and determine your 2017 resolutions – it is not too late to do it again.

Since resolutions can be declared every year, many of you believe there is time ahead for better resolutions – so why the rush? Moreover, new year resolutions are in many instances a gut-feel decision, taken either just before or after new year’s and likely, in situations of extreme excitement, and perhaps with a few bottles of beer, wine, or whatever in our bellies. Not the ideal situation or environment for effective decision making. Imagine a situation where an organization’s strategic choices are made at a cocktail party.

This blog brings art and structure to the new year (or any other) resolution making. Resolution making has to be rational and not a gut-feel matter. Perhaps this is the time to ask how many of you made new year resolutions and if you did, what informed them? How did you identify your resolution/s and did you think through what it takes to achieve the same?

We did a quick and dirty check-in over the last two weeks and as you may suspect – personal resolutions were made in a highly haphazard manner. No wonder they are abandoned by many; reason – they are mostly baseless, useless and won’t add value to one’s well being. Secondly, there is no accountability mechanism – beyond your spouse, children, and work colleagues having a hearty laugh when you abandon and fail to achieve your resolutions.  What happens to you when you don’t deliver new year resolutions – mostly nothing!

So what is this art of effective resolution making?

Well, if we look at resolution as strategy, in this case personal, we have to assume that just like strategy-making, resolution-making should be informed by the Vision or Mission, activities to align to the Vision or Mission and value creation (in this case for self), and ultimately what is required to accomplish the activities – i.e. resources including human skills

So, did you consider the variables below when making your so-called 2017 resolutions?

  • What I aspire to become vs. what I am today
  • What I want to change about myself and why
  • How to change self
  • Whether I have the ‘resource and skills’ capabilities to realise the above change, and moreover within one year

Strategic thinking is a wooly subject and is mentally taxing – and for the latter reasons many hate strategic discourse. Strategy to many is cumbersome and professorial – this has not been helped by the contemporary Consultant that has turned strategy into management mumbo-jumbo used to earn money from strategy-loathing clients.

However, you need strategic frameworks, however ‘lite,’ to be able to define what needs doing as well as realize effective outcomes. You can’t run away from this – for the promise to ‘keep it simple stupid’ (KISS), we hope that you will accept to think strategically about your new year resolution making

Last week, courtesy of we reflected upon the American people’s 2017 resolutions – they were mostly of a soft nature i.e. going to the gym, eating better, etc.

American's - top New year resolutions
American’s – top New year resolutions

We were left wondering what informed the 2017 resolution-decision-making of the American people; also what Ugandan people’s and indeed fellow East African’s resolutions are and what informed their choice.

Many of you are familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs – it proved to be a useful framework that guided discourse on:

  • What I aspire to become vs. what I am today
  • What I want to change about myself and why
Maslow's hierarchy of needs
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

It quickly became apparent to us that many American’s have met their Physiological and Safety needs – and have the right legal framework to guarantee individual Love and Belonging – for example, if you are gay or lesbian in America, your right to sexual intimacy is guaranteed in many of the States that form the USA; those that want to leave abusive marriages have the right and means to do so – not sure that Ugandan’s including some very highly educated men and women are guaranteed such freedoms – but the latter is clearly beyond the scope of this blog, since we are discussing effective new year resolution making.

Therefore, what is left to do for the average American is to target and achieve Esteem and Self-actualization needs. American’s aren’t making resolutions to address deficiency needs – what Maslow calls D-needs (Level 1 – 3 from bottom); these are already a fait-accompli. Instead, American’s are aiming to achieve the higher level ranks of Maslow’s hierarchy (level 4 & 5) – what Maslow terms the B-needs mostly being or growth needs.

American people B-needs in order of importance are: Becoming a better person, Losing weight, Exercising more, Spending less money, Improving healthy, etc. It is worth noting that increasing family time and enjoying life are both at the bottom. Americans are indeed top rank when it comes to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

When we applied the same Maslow’s hierarchy to the Ugandan people, based on some new year resolutions friends have shared with us – it dawned on us that Ugandan’s, including the educated and more productive, are languishing at the low end of Maslow’s hierarchy. Well, perhaps surprised by the latter statement, many may want to push back at the Effectiveness lab’s analysis.

However, how best to justify our position than to share some of the Ugandan people (middle class) new year resolutions for 2017:

  • Installing a gate at our home [security related]
  • Completing our house [Safety and Physiological related]
  • Getting a job [Safety]
  • Working on a viable retirement plan (moreover in their 40’s?) [Safety]
  • Starting a side business [Safety]
  • Spending more time managing my side business [Safety]

Yes, we have also heard some Ugandan resolutions at the top end of Maslow’s Hierarchy i.e. some have committed to a healthier lifestyle including going to the gym, better work-life balance, etc. However, these very people are also committed to resolutions at the lower end of Maslow’s hierarchy like getting a better job or completing their house. The latter is symptomatic of a mixed resolution bag, not informed by proper analysis

There is no need to panic – simply work out your current bearing, determine how to move to the next bearing, and with what resources, ensuring you remain as objective as possible. Nothing is impossible in life and you will never cheat effort and hard work 

Steps towards developing effective resolutions:

  1. Use an appropriate framework to define where you are re.: your individual well-being – may be against Maslow’s or your own life journey roadmap
  2. Determine whether you are now and where you want to go next
  3. List down what it takes to change and how (mostly behavioral – do you have the grit?)
  4. Determine the resources needed to change the status quo and move to the next level (resources may be financial or individual skills – be careful about wanting to complete your house or installing a gate at your home, and at the same time spending quite a chunk of your meagre resources on annual membership at an elite gym in town – why not walk every evening, exercise at home and spend your meagre income on improving your home? This is a resource allocation dilemma that many need to address – cause: they aren’t rational and methodical in their resolution making)
  5. Put in place an accountability mechanism – i.e. form a new year resolution accountability pit-stop group (a group of peers that gather every month to hold one another accountable to their commitments – this can be done on WhatsApp, etc)

Are your 2017 individual resolutions feasible?


3 responses to “2017 – Business Un-usual? Series 2 of 4”

  1. Muhangi African Avatar
    Muhangi African

    The un answered question in my mind is “Why should it be a new year resolution?”. Starting a new year is a mere “physical” way of how we count days/months/years. This has no relation to human behavior. A meaningful personal resolution in life should not be based on a calendar because a calendar has no correlation to change in behavior. Resolutions that I have seen effective are made without waiting a “new year”. Each day we live is a start of a new year in itself.


    1. African – interesting perspective and tell you what, I fully agree with you!

      A HNY!


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About Me

Apollo B. Gabazira is an Ugandan OD. junkie fascinated by matters that render organisations/individuals effective or not. He blogs on effective leadership and management. He is a devoted green-farmer and breeds the Ayrshire cow at Nakabugu, Luuka district, Uganda. Apollo is quite effective at what he chooses to do.


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