The New Year rolls in with a lot of questions for people from all walks of life, concerning what has happened and what the future holds. But not all of them are helpful; there are really only a handful of important ones that will keep us focused on making the most of the year ahead.

And get this: these questions can be applied in our lives as individuals, as well as to the plans and efforts of any business organization! These are questions that we can ask ourselves to get on or stay on the right track. At the same time, they’re also questions that the leadership and members of an organization can use to assess where they are and how to move forward as a team.

So what are these questions? Let’s take a look at each one.

Organizational equivalent: How is the organization as a whole?

It’s quite difficult to start anything when we’re not in a good place, whether physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. And for us as individuals, issues and problems weigh more heavily when we don’t acknowledge them. Personal baggage hinders us from thinking and acting on what we want to accomplish, and the only way to cope with it all is to be aware of what exactly these issues are. This is where the healing process starts, and once we’ve recovered we’ll be free to pursue our goals with renewed focus and commitment.

For an organization, this is doubly important: is everyone okay personally? Is everyone okay with each other? These two layers must both be dealt with. An organization cannot function well when any member is saddled with personal issues, and neither can it function well when there are unresolved concerns within the organizational structure. The organization must keep a culture of honesty and openness at all levels so that these concerns can be discussed and properly addressed.

Organizational equivalent: How are our partners? What are our common concerns and issues?

Social beings that we are, our personal welfare is tied to the welfare of those around us. Family and friends are our primary attachments, and the two-way give-and-take relationship we have with them is affected when they have struggles of their own. It’s unreasonable to expect them to collaborate with us when they’re facing their own problems. Thus, we need to have a decent level of sensitivity to and awareness of the plight of others so that we can help them, especially if we have common challenges that need to be tackled together.

Similarly, organizations have connections that can be either strained or nurtured depending on awareness of shared concerns. No organization has been exempt from the major events of the past year, and a company that has more or less stabilized will have to help their partners that are still struggling so that all parties involved can stand firmly, allowing the partnership to remain beneficial to everyone. With a united front, organizations can coordinate to overcome mutual challenges.

Organizational equivalent: What have we retained and gained in spite of any losses? What are the resources we can use now?

Being aware of and accepting what we’ve lost is part of moving on from a tough experience, but obsessing over losses is unhealthy and leads to impulsive actions. Taking full note of what we still have is much more helpful for moving forward, because we can use what we still have while we can’t use what we’ve lost. This also helps us to properly thank and appreciate those who’ve helped us keep what we have and gain new things. This “attitude of gratitude” has a tendency to spread and create a culture of healthy positivity.

In an organization’s case, losses are important benchmarks for recovery but are not as important to note as things that have been retained and gained. Again, things that have been lost can no longer be used, but things that are still around or that have been newly acquired will be available for the foreseeable future as long as they are taken care of. Whether it’s fixed assets, equipment, supplies, finances, systems, or ideas, what an organization has will determine the depth and range of action they can take moving forward.

Organizational equivalent: What are our initiatives?

From an evidence-based and scientific point of view, any action we take has both a theoretical and a practical component. The theoretical part is planning, including resource planning, goal-setting and strategizing. The practical part is the actual execution of the plan based on the available resources and according to the strategy, in the interest of achieving the set goals. We may not necessarily look at it this way, but our efforts to achieve our personal goals naturally follow this process flow. And the practical component is necessary to turn plans into reality; without actually taking the first step and following through with consistent action, even the best plans are just words on paper.

Individuals and organizations go about this process in pretty much the same way. The only difference is the scale, which involves more complex interactions between everyone working together. Through the plan, these interactions can be steered towards the same goal in spite of (and maybe even taking advantage of) individual differences among team members. But as ever, this requires that everyone involved take the first step and then follow through until the task is done.

Organizational equivalent: What are our best practices?

We all have our habits, and there comes a point in life when we just know that they work best for us. They can be habits that help us achieve physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual goals. In almost all cases, they’ve been the right thing to do and helped us get to a better place than before. These are the habits that are compatible with our outlook on life and the way we want to live it. Provided that these habits do not harm anyone, we should identify them so that we don’t forget our most effective tools for accomplishing our goals.

Organizations have best practices, or tried and tested methods of producing advantageous outcomes. These practices are found in management, operations, finance, marketing, and various other aspects of business activity. They can include long-established protocols, industry innovations, and unorthodox methods unique to each organization. And in all likelihood, they helped ensure survival through the roughest patches of 2020. These are the practices that have great potential to sustain an organization no matter what 2021 throws at it.

Organizational equivalent: What have we done that didn’t turn out so well?

Not every habit is helpful to us or conducive to achieving our goals. Some of them actually have the opposite effect: hindering us from moving forward, or even undoing our previous progress. At worst, they may even have negative effects on others who are making honest effort to accomplish their own worthwhile goals. It’s important to distinguish these harmful habits, so that we can convert them into helpful ones that produce better outcomes.

It’s also important for business organizations to identify and stop their not-so-good practices, because there are obviously flaws and weaknesses in them that produce outcomes different from the intended results. If left unaddressed, these practices may lead to delays and irreversible losses. These outcomes will then force companies into a desperate recovery mode, which may drive them to make ill-advised or even unscrupulous business decisions that harm everyone involved. Conversely, revising these practices will lead to a constructive recovery mode that helps mitigate or avoid the worst effects that arose from engaging in these practices in the first place.

Organizational equivalent: What is our purpose or mission? What are our goals?

This is the question that anchors everything. In many ways, it comes full circle with the first question; if we are not okay, our goal is to be okay. If we are, our goal is to keep it that way or to find something better to move on to. In both cases, the mission is to have a fulfilling life. Having this clear purpose not only helps with goal-setting, it also serves as a constant reminder of where we want to be once everything is said and done. Our personal answer to this question is both the engine and the steering wheel – it keeps us moving and guides us to our destination.

All business organizations are established with a clear mission in mind, and this very same question is a constant challenge to accomplish the goals at hand, move on to new goals in line with the mission, and repeat the process. Without purpose or a mission, anything that the organization does will be empty and meaningless. A mission shapes what the organization is, and sets the mold for what it can become in the future.

Purpose is what it all boils down to – it’s the reason all of the questions on this list are important. We ask them because we need to reaffirm the mission we carry for 2021 and beyond. And with the possibilities, both bad and good, that this year will bring, a clear and concrete mission can be the deciding factor as we do our best to survive and thrive.

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