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New Year’s Resolutions: The Agile Way

Statistics state that of those that make a New Year’s resolution, only about eight percent actually follow through and complete what they set out to accomplish. Some of the reasons they fail are due to extremely high expectations, unrealistic goals, the lack of a plan, or the drop in motivation. Perhaps it’s not the resolution that is the underlying problem but, instead, the method in which it is derived. My assumption is that most people probably use a waterfall approach to create their resolutions. Perhaps a more agile approach may increase the odds for more people to keep their resolutions.

Most people that I have known to create a resolution have only set a measurable goal for their completion date, which is almost always the end of the New Year. This is a very waterfall approach to developing a resolution for the new year, as all measurable acceptance criteria is focused around how they define the final result. I see several issues with this strategy. First, chances are they have never achieved this level before in whatever they are working towards. This means they have no experience to pull from to create a more realistic and attainable goal. Secondly, since there is no other defined and measurable goals, then all the pressure for the whole resolution rests on the shoulder of the person who created it for the entire year because there needs to be enough progress throughout the year to attain that end goal. This is intimidating and leaves little to no room for change because a hard goal has already been defined. These are all issues that waterfall projects can run into as they go throughout the project lifecycle.

As an example, let’s say someone said by the end of the year they wanted to lose 100 pounds. If they have never done it before, how do they know that is even possible? Sure, there are shows and stories of people online they can base it off of but everyone’s body is different. Creating a goal based on what they read or watched someone else do can create unrealistic goals and expectations.  Additionally, what happens if they start losing only about 5 pounds a month and realize that if they keep up at this rate that they will only lose 60 pounds at year end? That amount of weight is still a significant improvement and could actually be the weight they could more easily maintain. Of course they probably will never know that because it is 40% less than the person defined at the beginning of the year, so chances are they will lose motivation to keep going because they know they will not reach their end goal.

Enter the agile approach. Instead of setting a hard year end goal, what if only an estimate was defined for the year end. Additionally, what if each month was treated as a sprint instead of just 1/12 of the resolution’s overall deadline. During each month, a harder goal could be set in a much smaller increment in relation to the end goal. Additionally, other aspects of a sprint can be incorporated into the resolution as well. Perhaps a retrospective, or a time to define all that went well and what needs to be improved going into the next sprint, could be implemented to be used as a way to gauge and alter the end of the year’s estimate.  They could also at the same time have a “sprint planning meeting” to define this new sprints (months) goal, just as it is typically done in agile. The more sprints (months) the person goes through, the more relevant experience they will have to reevaluate and redefine a more realistic year end estimate. Sure, there estimate may have to be altered, but keeping the mindset that it is only an estimate can mitigate the amount of motivation that is lost from such a reduction.

It may not be a method that could work for everyone, as it does require more effort in managing the resolution throughout the year, but it is another way to approach making a resolution. Even if both methods are meshed together in one way or another, such as having a both hard monthly and year-end goals, it could still increase the chances of more people accomplishing their resolutions– even if it is a more “watergile” approach. In the end, no matter what method is used, I hope everyone finds a way to make the most out of 2016.

Happy New Year everyone.

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