Happy New Year! This is the third time I’m posting this piece since, as I announced last year, it’s now an annual thing, albeit not exactly Clement Clarke Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas.” As Jews around the world celebrate Rosh Hashanah, I thought I’d try to put what the holiday means into a business context. Enjoy!
Last night marked the start of the Jewish New Year. I didn’t go down to Times Square to see if they were dropping a giant knish at the stroke of sundown – probably not. L’Shana Tova – a happy and healthy New Year to all of you.
One of the things Jews do over the next 10 days (or at least are supposed to do) is to reflect on the year gone by and think about where it took you on life’s journey. It’s not really as much about looking back in my mind as it is about looking forward. Oh sure, one is supposed to think about where one strayed from life’s path in terms of dealing with other humans and human codes of conduct. We get a day of fasting next week to get that sorted out. But it’s also a time to think about a fresh start. Which, of course, promoted a business thought.
When do businesses stop and enter a period of reflection? It’s obvious when they’re changing – witness Facebook last week – but I, for one, certainly wonder sometimes if those changes happen due to the momentum of previous (maybe not so good) decisions or if they’re the result of a pause, some reflection, and a willful thought by the entire organization as to the direction. Often, I fear, it’s the former.
Jews are to use the next ten days for reflection and repentance. I like to think of them as ten days of self-improvement. I’d also suggest that it would do many businesses a lot of good to build the same sort of period into their corporate calendars. Some do – they call it the budget process – but I think that’s too selective in terms of participants and goals to do much good. Some smart CEO needs to declare it New Year’s Day for the company once a year and get everyone to do the same sort of professional reflection that many of us do on the personal side. Identify your sins (figuratively speaking) and atone. Faulty customer service, weak brand identity, bad employee relations, products that aren’t optimal, fostering an atmosphere of fear – these are all good places to start.