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New Years Resolution

Resolutions: Are you ready for Change that will work - this time?

  • 09 January 2013
  • Posted by Marcella Bremer

Happy 2013 to all of you - and we’re back to work! You probably wished your coworkers a great new year and you exchanged new year’s resolutions over your first coffee and that’s it.

Though new beginnings can be refreshing and early January is anchored as a promising time of setting inspiring goals and starting to February most of us seem stuck in the “messy middle” of change. Current culture took over in the workplace. Old habits die hard.

February - time to give up?

Though you promised yourself to apply better time management and do your priorities first thing in the morning - you find yourself procrastinating because you need to have 3 coffees to get properly started and this habit is comfortable. Though your coworker assured you she’d be more assertive and innovative from now on - it proves to be hard while your boss is not supportive of critical thinkers and the team values agreeableness and loyalty to the team’s “way of doing things around here”.

February may be depressing when it comes to facing the fact that you let go of your new year’s resolutions. But when it comes to organizational change programs - it permanently seems to be February.


The big fanfare and the CEO’s speech have passed by. The why and how of change are explained and maybe even accepted by most employees. The new things to do are also downloadable from the intranet. Your boss has explained them once more in the first Monday morning meeting after the CEO’s speech.

However, we’re not doing anything differently. The early adopters may have stopped the effort of changing these particular habits. The change advocates are trying to implement the new way in 50 percent of the cases - at best. The rest of us are waiting to see what happens. We’re busy and tired - just like you felt early January after too many Holidays festivities - when you opened your email inbox and sighed.

It’s just like your coworker’s resolution to be more innovative and assertive. It got swamped by current culture. By habits. By comfort zones, both collectively and individually. By limitations of only 24 hours a day - while there’s 26 hours of work to do and decisions to make that exhaust our willpower, energy and focus.

Individual, inner change

Most advice around goal setting and achieving and new year’s resolutions focuses on things like finding your true motivation (the big Why), making goals specific, changing one thing at a time and practicing perseverance. It takes 30-40 days to wire a new habit into the brain. Though all of these things may be true, what is forgotten is another mighty factor that determines whether change will stick or not: your surroundings.

Most advice stresses the importance of inner factors, but outside of yourself is the context that may or may not enhance the new behaviors. This outside factor is huge. This is where your coworker, though determined on the inside, encountered this boss and this team who were unsupportive - and stopped doing the new behavior. This is where you were offered a cigaret though you had decided to quit smoking. Here’s the opportunity to have 3 coffees and the social acceptance to postpone your priorities, in spite of your time management resolutions. Or, on the contrary, here’s your team who help you do it...!

Collective, outside leverage!

A crucial “outside factor of change” in the workplace is current culture and more specifically, your boss and your coworkers. Most people want and need to belong to a group, which is a deep inner drive. Most people care about how they get along with their team and what their boss thinks of them. This is why groups have (some) power of individuals. Groups provide the context for change. Groups may either block or stimulate change, depending on their culture and the team members. But anyhow, groups are crucial to create leverage and to guide successful change (both personal and organizational).

Avoid February Failure!

This is why I use “Circles of 10” in my organizational change approach. Circles of 10 trusted coworkers who depend on each other and support one another to do new things and make change happen. Whether it’s personal New Year’s resolutions or organizational goals. Most people can’t do it alone. Or it gets real tough, exhausting your willpower and preparing for failure in February....

The way we do things around here, the group’s norms, can be sticky. But by working with these Change Circles of 10 you can learn to utilize the group process to achieve your goals and create successful change in an easier way. Start with inner motivation and add the outside factor of the group to provide support, changing the group itself toward a new culture...

Secure your Seat before February

Are you ready for change that will work this time? Join our 3-day international Workshop on how to change, utilizing culture and change circles! The Culture Change Days are held on 27-29 June 2013 and the Early Bird tickets are available until 1 February...