Five Resolutions for 2005

Want to make 2005 a great year? Try these ideas on for size.

By Tom Dossenbach


There are five resolutions that you should adopt during 2005 that will result in a profound, positive influence on your company and in your personal life. They include:

  1. Get a Performance Review - Find out from your boss what you need to do to become more effective.
  2. Mentor Someone - Identify whom you can help become a more productive employee.
  3. Listen More - Stop talking so much and really listen to others.
  4. Start a 5-S Program - Take the necessary steps to stamp out waste and improve efficiency.
  5. Improve Your Fitness - Exercise and eat well.

As I reflect on the past and then look ahead, I try to put myself in the shoes of the woodworking executives who read this column. I try to imagine five things they might do this year that will help them be able to say 2005 was a good year when 2006 rolls around.

It is hard to develop a list to which each and every reader can relate equally. If a particular resolution does not fit, try modifying it to your unique circumstances. In any event, I urge you to give serious consideration to each point.

Resolution No. 1: Get a Performance Review

Maybe you are in a management or supervisory position and are responsible for reviewing the "performance" and effectiveness of others. If so, you no doubt appreciate the importance of the feedback you give them. You have observed their strengths and weaknesses during the year and would like to see them build on those strengths and overcome their shortcomings. By doing this, they will become more effective contributors to making the company stronger.

If this is true for them, does it not equally apply to you? Of course it does. No matter what your level of experience, you must make sure the person you report to gives you a thorough performance review highlighting your strengths and weaknesses.

Make sure you ask your "boss" what you need to do this year to improve. Work with him to help you set personal goals and an action plan for meeting them.

Resolution No. 2: Mentor Someone

If you want to experience a sense of deep satisfaction this year, resolve to help someone who shows great potential but is an underachiever. Resolve to mentor him or her to a higher level of performance.

You may say that you do not have time for this and immediately dismiss the idea. However, you would be making a serious mistake and would miss out on one of the main virtues of life - to help others! By focusing some of your energies on helping someone else succeed, you will develop a new, healthy perspective of your job, your company and others who work with you.

Look for a person who is often ignored or taken for granted, someone who could use a friend. Perhaps it is someone from a different country or a new employee who has yet to connect with the rest of the team.

By directing some of your focus from yourself to another this year, you will become a much better manager, supervisor or team member. Use this resolution as additional motivation to go to work each day. It will make you a better person and a more valuable asset to your company.

(See the Management Matters columns of August 2000 and October 2002.)

Resolution No. 3: Listen More

Unfortunately, most people don't realize that there are three essential things they must do to be successful: listen, listen and listen some more! Mastering the art of listening is imperative to becoming a super achiever in your job.

A good example of this is when you are faced with a new challenge. To meet it, you must first grasp the issue completely, including its root cause. This often means asking questions of others. You must carefully listen to their answers and be ready to ask follow-up questions to get a clear picture.

You might feel that you are very adept at multi-tasking. However, do not be fooled. You cannot fully comprehend what someone is saying unless you stop talking and start really listening. We all have pre-conceived ideas of almost any issue, but they are often wrong. The way to become more effective at problem solving is to listen to what others have to say and then apply your own creativity to find the best answer. (By the way, this applies very much to Resolution No. 1.)

You probably have heard it said that because we were given two ears but only one mouth, we should listen twice as much as we talk. Actually, in my view, we should listen about 90 percent of the time.

Resolution No. 4: Start a 5-S Program

Several years ago, I wrote about a simple, inexpensive system you can use on your factory floor to reduce waste, improve quality and safety, assist in recruiting and retaining good employees, and add handsomely to the bottom line. It is a powerful tool of Lean Manufacturing and Continuous Improvement and is commonly referred to as 5-S Workplace Management. 5-S represents the five elements of the process, each beginning with the letter S, as described below.

Sort: The first step is to conduct a blitz audit of your department and get rid of everything that does not belong or is not needed. This includes such things as excessive inventory and equipment gathering cobwebs, and is not to be confused with a clean up.

Straighten: The next step is to organize what is left into a logical arrangement for better production flow and less handling such as is found in work cells. The empty space that is created is reserved for future use.

Scrub: Again, this 5-S is more than a mere housekeeping exercise. However, this step does involve a thorough scrubbing and cleaning of the area and its contents, including the machinery. You want to make the area and everything within it so clean, that when there is a problem with a machine or something shows up that does not belong, it stands out like a sore thumb.

Standardize: This step basically involves setting parameters that define what to do and what not to do so that the area will not revert to the way it was before you began the 5-S process. Examples include setting inventory levels for work in process, making sure a preventive maintenance schedule is established for equipment and determining the cycle of when this process will begin again.

Sustain: This is an essential step in waging the war on waste and cutting costs. It is also a great way to transform a cluttered, unsightly plant into one in which employees will love to work. This step must be sustained as a continuous improvement process.

The main point is that all five steps are essential and together form a powerful tool for managing a shop floor - or any other department in an organization. The 5-S program is a simple way to get continuous improvement off to a blistering start in any woodworking plant.

Resolution No. 5: Improve Your Fitness

As I mentioned last fall, the discovery that I needed emergency heart surgery to avoid a potential heart attack really caught me by surprise. One day I was feeling just great and the next week I had five bypasses.

One of the good things to emerge from this event is a new-found awareness of the lifestyle I choose. Typically, I have long made it a habit to walk two miles a day - even when traveling. However, I did not do a very good job of watching what I ate, choosing pizza and other fast foods more often than I would like to admit.

Thus, the fifth and final resolution I urge you to make is to improve your overall fitness and health. You should vow to change your diet and increase your exercise in order to lower your cholesterol, your weight, your blood pressure and to have a check-up every year to minimize some of the risks for heart disease. If you do not look after yourself, who will?

I wish you and your company a prosperous 2005.

Tom Dossenbach is managing director of Dossenbach Associates LLC, a Sanford, NC-based international consulting and research firm. He can be reached at (919) 775-5017 or at Past Management Matters columns are archived on


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