Editor’s Note: The eight-percenters

Happy New Year! The turning of the calendar is a much-celebrated time of reflection and setting goals for the coming year. Statistics show that those who pledge to make changes at the start of the year typically resolve to lose weight, get organized or be more fiscally responsible. Some 45 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, according to statisticbrain.com. Only 8 percent of people, however, are successful in achieving them. Bummer.

Perhaps it’s a matter of setting not only a goal, but the right pace of change to achieve it.
I spoke with Beverly Warren, the recently appointed president of Kent State University, for this month’s cover story. Her long-term goal is to transform the university into a global destination that courts the brightest students. Getting there, however, takes planning and discipline.

While in her previous position at Virginia Commonwealth University, she saw how moving too fast toward a goal can make achieving it more difficult than it needs to be.

“I think sometimes you do have to push the pace, but you also have to realize that individuals don’t change overnight, institutions don’t change overnight,” she said.

That notion certainly aligns with the New Year’s resolution findings, which say that 75 percent of resolutions are maintained through the first week. That number drops to 46 percent after the six-month mark. One study by a University of Scranton psychology professor suggests that readiness to change is the single best predictor of success.

Warren, through her experience, found that understanding where an institution stands in the context of the change is a central cue to how fast or slow change can take place.

“Thinking strategically, you look at where an institution currently stands and your vision for that institution and how large is that delta. The larger the delta, the slower the pace of change, because as I said, people don’t change overnight.”

A more uplifting statistic researchers found is that people who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t. Giving yourself or your company a framework for how to proceed into the coming year, it seems, can make a big difference.

Take ASW Global, for instance. Andre Thornton, president and CEO, talked with me for this month’s feature about the company’s recent acquisitions. One point Thornton made was about indoctrinating the employees from acquired companies into the acquiring organization.

He said, “Your role as a company is trying to work with them to help create a successful entity. It’s creating that culture by communicating, for example, the realistic day-to-day activities that go on within that company. That’s an ongoing process of establishing what’s important to you and then living and working to those values. And that starts from the top down.”

So, welcome to 2015. Whether you’ve pledged to quit smoking, spend more time with your family or fall in love, here’s hoping you’re one of the successful 8 percent who achieve their goals.