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Don’t Make a New Year’s Resolution. Create a Start-Stop-Continue Plan Instead.

Real change requires more than just doing something new. It also involves stopping what doesn't work and continuing what's already working well.

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When I work with leaders and organizations looking to create change and innovate, I always tell them the same thing: strategy is as much about what you don’t do, as it is about what you decide to do.

It’s natural to look for a fresh start when we’re seeking change. A new calendar year, fiscal year, or new job can provide the impetus for trying something new. It’s a positive opportunity.

The problem is that we often neglect the broader context. That’s why research shows that half of all adults make New Year’s Resolutions, but only about 10% follow-through for more than a few months. Too many people think that if they just decide what they want to change – create a “resolution” for change – things will shift.

Not true.

Change isn’t easy. We need to modify mindsets. We need to break personal habits. We need to shift the cultures of our teams and organizations.

That’s why I recommend going beyond the New Year’s Resolution. Instead, create a Start-Stop-Continue plan.

A Start-Stop-Continue plan is a simple yet powerful tool.  By identifying things to start doing, stop doing, and continue doing, it becomes possible to build upon what’s already working while discontinuing what’s hasn’t been contributing to success. By consciously stopping specific activities, it also becomes possible to free up time and resources to focus on new things that will have an even greater impact.

Here’s a free template anyone can use to create their plan, which is based on the following questions:

  1. START:  What will you START doing to be more effective and accomplish your goals?
  2. STOP:  What will you STOP doing to free up time and resources and create greater focus?
  3. CONTINUEWhat will you CONTINUE doing that’s working well?

In full disclosure, this change management template comes from upBOARD, a company I co-founded that’s creating the world’s largest library of online business process tools and apps. The best way to use the template is to first gain input on the questions from others, including colleagues, your manager and anyone else whose input you value. Then, complete the template. Share your results with others and then update your Start, Stop and Continue items based on any additional feedback.

The New Year provides the opportunity for a new lease on our mindsets and behavior. What will you start doing, stop doing and continue doing to make the next year better than the last?

Soren Kaplan is the bestselling and award-winning author of Leapfrogging and The Invisible Advantage, an affiliated professor at USC’s Center for Effective Organizations, a former corporate executive, and a co-founder of UpBOARD. He has been recognized by the Thinkers50 as one of the world’s top keynote speakers and thought leaders in business strategy and innovation.

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