There is a difference between plans, goals, and resolutions. We use these words somewhat interchangeably, but maybe we shouldn’t.
- A plan is a strategy or identified steps, and possibly includes a list of available or dedicated resources and costs.
- A goal is about the future, an aspiration, what we hope will happen if it goes well.
- A resolution is a purpose, something determined, approved, a decision, a commitment of time, money, and energy.
Pros and cons of plans, goals, and resolutions
A plan can take the form of a standard business plan or marketing plan. It can also be a more individualized funding, HR, security, disaster, continuity, or operations plan, for example. It seems odd, but many plans have no specific goal to measure; their purpose is merely “to plan,” check a box, and be able to say that “I planned…” or “we planned to…”
It is always good to plan, but the devil is definitely in the financial details and in the reality of the situation. Plan killers include outside forces: political, economic, social, technological, and environmental.
Goals can be part of a stated plan, or be standalone and not very specific: diversity goals, set aside goals, transparency goals. Too often, though, without the resources and support needed to become reality, they become just marketing words or aspirations. What’s worse is many people see them that way. When you choose goals, be specific but know the risks.
Resolutions are required by corporations, and are in politics and many legal documents. A corporate resolution documents the actions and decisions of a board of directors and holds the board accountable to investors, licensing boards, and state and federal regulators by showing the board is acting in accordance with its fiduciary responsibilities.
Resolutions hold people accountable. They also aren’t just for corporations; they may be a good choice for your business.
We MAKE plans, SET goals, but ADOPT and COMMIT to resolutions. A resolution is stronger than a plan or a goal. When choosing between a plan, a goal, or a resolution, remember it’s your business and your choice. We judge ourselves and others by our results and keeping the commitments we make, so choose wisely.
Good and bad resolutions
Resolutions can be proposed and adopted at any time; we can make plans or set goals at any time, too. They are not just something to have by the end of the year or the beginning of the next.
If you choose to have a business resolution, instead of a plan or a goal, there are decisions you need to make. Not only do you have to define the resolution, you have to define how you’re going to make it happen and commit to it. And if you don’t want to commit to the resolution, just make a plan or set a goal.
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There are actually three different ways to think about a resolution: fixer, creator, and guardian. Each of these ways has a different perspective and frame of mind, and has different ways to achieve success, yet each one can have successful results.
- Fixer: It’s wrong. Let’s dump it all and fix it, or adjust it a lot. (Negative)
- Creator: It’s not wrong, but it could be better. Let’s create a new approach or think of it in a new way. (Positive)
- Guardian: There are some things that are worth keeping and celebrating. Let’s commit ourselves to that. (Neutral)
Are you proposing a resolution? Which one of these perspectives reflects your frame of mind? If you are conflicted (not resolute), the resolution you want and the commitment you must make to achieve it can be watered down so that it becomes a plan or a goal. And that’s okay—just different. The same is true if you are part of a group, or not the ultimate decision-maker, and there is no single, united frame of mind on the issue.
So that your resolution has real meaning, ask yourself what did you learn, observe, or experience during the last year that makes you committed to do whatever is necessary to change, improve, or keep the resolution? Are you:
- A dissatisfied fixer?
- A possibility creator?
- A supporter of continuity and a consistency guardian?
You also can use this approach in group settings to learn each person’s point of view and frame of mind. Most likely, the final wording of a resolution will contain aspects of all three, but one aspect will be more dominant.
The last thing to consider is commitment. How committed are you and others to turn this resolution into reality? If there is not emotional, financial, and action “buy-in” by those in charge and those affected, you have a plan with a goal. Again, okay, just different.
Judging the results
If you make a plan or goal, instead of a resolution, then the results have to be judged differently than the results of a resolution. In a resolution, what you are trying to avoid is “lack of resolve.” This term means something is insufficient, lacking, or missing. What’s absent is something that’s more than just necessary—it is required or desired and of high value.
Can the results of a plan or goal show a “lack of resolve”? It can, but it can also be explained away or justified. We expect more from resolutions and we are often disappointed.
Caveat emptor: be careful what you ask for. Before you adopt a resolution, instead of just making a plan or setting a goal, be aware of any limitations. You will judge yourself and others will judge you and your results. Being in charge means the “buck does stop here.”
But, do make all three of them: plans, goals, and resolutions. They are all positive steps to business success. No matter the perspective, they show that you, or you and your team, have taken the time to really observe, evaluate, and learn.
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