New Year, New Organizational Resolutions – How to Turn Promises into Actions?


The year 2024 is well underway, and we’re staying true to the resolutions we made as the new year began. Have you been getting more active, working on your fitness? Managed to squeeze in that extra half-hour of sleep? Keeping your energy up for loved ones even after a long day at work? Setting some boundaries on screen time, perhaps?

New Year’s resolutions are famously short-lived. We pledge to overhaul our habits, work routines, and relationships in one fell swoop. And just like that, in that same fell swoop, we often find ourselves falling short.

What are the common pitfalls of New Year’s resolutions?

The common reasons why we can’t keep these resolutions are surprisingly straightforward (HS 12/2022, Petteri Kilpinen):

  1. The Scale of Change
  2. Lack of Planning
  3. Going Solo

Whether we try to overhaul everything at once or pick a change we don’t have the bandwidth for, these stumbling blocks are real. Sometimes, we don’t plan to make the change a part of our daily routine or we misidentify the root causes behind the issues. For instance, poor sleep might be related to factors like irregular eating patterns, a sedentary lifestyle, or endless daily meetings without breaks. Lastly, we keep our resolutions a secret, not sharing them with anyone.

If you’re aiming for success now, consider making a significant small change that you wholeheartedly believe in. Plan how this change can seamlessly fit into your daily life and identify the resources needed to achieve it. Lastly, share your goals publicly.

Once you’ve triumphed in making a change, you can make another promise before the New Year and implement it gradually, one step at a time. That’s the theoretical simplicity of it.

If you want to succeed now, make the most significant small change that you genuinely believe in and are fully committed to.

Jere Syvänne, Heltti

Are organization any better in keeping their promises?

As organizations, we make New Year’s resolutions in a similar fashion to our employees, customers, and stakeholders, in the form of goals, action plans, and budgets. “We will double our revenue,” “stand out from competitors with A-class customer experiences,” and “attract talent with the best workplace reputation in the industry.

And all too often, promises go unfulfilled. In my experience, there are three reasons for meager results:

  1. The scale of change
  2. Lack of a planning
  3. Going solo

Sound familiar? Of these, the first is the most crucial and challenging.

Understand the connection between things – the system

An organization’s employees, customers, and operating environment form a complex network (system) where connections and events cannot be predetermined. However, the system can be understood, allowing for error avoidance in the scale of change.

Often, changes are attempted in quantitatively excessive or overly complex ways that surpass the organization’s resources. The cause-and-effect diagram below simplifies the resource deficit resulting from organizational overload and its consequences.

The better the fundamentals are, the more significant disturbance from the change the organization can withstand. Excessive change diminishes employee experience, customer satisfaction, and productivity, eroding the desired benefits.

Changes are typically attempted to either capitalize on an opportunity or address a problem. When the underlying factors (root causes) of phenomena are identified, the target and scale of the change can be selected correctly.

Plan a new everyday life

At an individual level, change yields results when some everyday routine shifts. The same principle applies to organizational change. Change produces results when employees’ everyday routines shift in the right way. Therefore, design a new daily routine that steers the organization (= employees) towards the goal. Identify and enhance those practices, tools, and structures with the most impact in the change. Leave untouched those that are already working well.

Don’t do it alone

In the end, organizational change is about altering the beliefs, thinking, and actions of many individuals. If you’re in a leadership or supervisory role, you know how easy it is to make decisions based on assumptions and soon realize the unfortunate consequences. Changes must be made collaboratively with the staff if success is the aim.

Most organizations undergo constant changes, and many of them succeed in achieving their goals. At Heltti, with 1400 clients and tens of thousands of (knowledge) workers, we are actively involved in changes, either witnessing successes or compensating for disruptions caused by changes in the system. Often, it’s both. In this sense as well, it’s not advisable to embark on change alone.

If you, as an organization, want to keep the promises you made for this year, understand your organization as a system, plan a new everyday life with your employees, and leverage experienced professionals in the process of change.


5 Ways to Fulfill Promises

  1. Understand the organization as a system: The better the fundamentals are, the greater the disturbance caused by change that the organization can endure.
  2. Identify root causes: Before making a change, recognize the factors influencing it so that you can direct the change appropriately.
  3. Focus on one change at a time: Avoid excessive change and invest in one thing you believe in wholeheartedly.
  4. Integrate the change into daily life: Plan carefully how the change reflects in daily work routines and focus on improving those with the greatest impact.
  5. Make changes collaboratively with the staff: Involve the staff in planning and decision-making. This increases commitment and provides the keys to successful change.

Get to know the author

Jere Syvänne kickstarted his career in the electronics industry back in the days when career paths were still a thing. He dabbled in corporate processes, development programs, and services during the early years. The engineering logic he picked up early on has been a guiding force in his client work, where he delves into productivity issues related to work environments, occupational health, or organizational development.

While not claiming expertise in any particular field, Jere, as a curious generalist, strives to uncover the social networks (systems) within organizations. Identifying the links between employee well-being and the organization’s ability to hit its goals always gets Jere’s curiosity buzzing.