Mark McDonald

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Mark P. McDonald
8 years at Gartner
24 years IT industry

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a former group vice president and head of research in Gartner Executive Programs. He is the co-author of The Social Organization with Anthony Bradley. Read Full Bio

Coverage Areas:

Forget about resolutions and figure out your resolve

by Mark P. McDonald  |  January 2, 2013  |  1 Comment

New Year’s resolutions come and mostly go by the wayside in large part because they are weak commitments to things we already know that we are not going to do. Sure you can pass up desert on January 3rd but what about on February 2nd is the same commitment there?

Rather than make promises that you really have no intention to keep, why not take a few moments this week to check up on your resolve by taking a few simple but insightful actions.

Calculate your ‘motor to weight’ ratio.  This is the ratio of contributing to managerial staff.  Over the past few years, IT has become increasingly administrative in nature in order to meet compliance, cost and control requirements.  Governance, coordinators, relationship managers, team leads, management, etc., represent overhead.  Extend your review to your suppliers; outsource partners etc., you pay for their overhead as well.  The smaller the ratio of contributing to managerial staff, the smaller your capacity to create value and the greater the degree IT becomes difficult to do business with.   A weak motor has limited resolve to change and limitless inertia.

Test the strength of your commitments.  How strong are the formal and informal agreements that drive your organization.  Test the strength of at least three commitments those outside of IT have made to you or IT by simply asking about their goals, status, the plans and most importantly the resources assigned and working on them.  Ask what it would take to meet the commitment in half the time, at half the cost in order to get a sense of how deep the commitment is.  Now do the same thing to three commitments you have made to others outside and inside of IT.  Where have you aligned the resources, shaped clear goals, started making progress, etc?  Commitments are the source of resolve.  If they are relative, weakly enacted or optional, then they are not commitments and they will give way when you least expect and can least afford them to.

Find the new thing for 2013.  So much of a new year is a repeat of the past, particularly in IT where ‘doing more with less’ more likely means doing the same as last year.  What is going to be really different in 2013, not the cosmetic stuff like “mobilizing a business task” or “getting serious about big data” but what is really going to be different?  If the only differences are superficial, then your resolve is likewise skin deep and subject to cuts and scrapes.  Get something that is really different and do it in 2013, so you can look back and say – we really did ‘more’ by doing different.   New things give direction and focus to your resolve.

Think about these three things as they are all related to resolve. New things provide the roadmap for resolve, fueled by commitments and powered by the strength of your organizational engine.   Rather than making resolutions that you know will fade away, take a look at the depth of your reservoir resolve.   It’s a good place to start.

1 Comment »

Category: 2013 Leadership Tough Questions     Tags: , , , ,

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Tony Downs   January 2, 2013 at 3:53 pm


    I think you have raised a very good point re strength testing of commitments. As the world has got busier and busier there is less time and ability to actively coach an mentor your business partners and suppliers. So this means you need to place more reliance on your relationship and the commitments you have made to each other. You have to trust that they are going to do what they have committed to do.

    However, sometimes taking a blind leap of faith can be your undoing. Perhaps they don’t view that piece of work with the same level of urgency, criticality or significance as you do. Perhaps they took their commitment as an ‘intention’ rather than a ‘commitment’, perhaps they have actually forgotten they ever made that commitment?

    Kicking the year off by inspecting and shoring up commitments so that you know you can rely on them is an excellent way to start the year.

    Happy New Year, hope 2013 is a good one for you.