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The Six Disciplines Blog


Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Performance Excellence And Accountability From A Different Perspective: The Weight-Loss Industry

Doing what we know we should do, but often times…just don’t. It’s the human side of performance management and accountability that we ALL struggle with. In this short video, Gary taps on the weight-loss industry and specifically a company you’ve likely heard of, with a 50 year history of successfully “telling you what to do, when you already KNOW what to do.” That company? Weight Watchers.

The following transcription of the video is for your convenience:

“There’s an industry that’s been built around the idea that we don’t do the things we should and they help us do it. The fitness industry, and I’m a student of the business Weight Watchers. It’s an interesting business and it’s a multi-billion dollar business, and here’s their model. Here’s what Weight Watchers does. I’ve been a member myself, my wife and I have been on and off, me mostly off. They have kind of four key components to their model.

First, they have a methodology. They tell you, here’s the way we think you should eat. These kinds of foods, less of these kinds of foods, and then they document that in a methodology, in a checklist or some kind of guidance. Then you show up, pay them $15 and stand on a scale and they hold you accountable. They write down what your weight is, take your $15 off of you and then third, they hand you a checklist or a login to a website for you to keep track of whether you’re following the methodology. So, you’ve got the methodology, you’ve got the check-in and then you’ve got the technology or the checklist that documents how to stay on it. That’s three out of the four items. The fourth item is those who are on the program get together and talk about what’s working and what’s not after they weigh in. And they can show you after 50 years that those who participate in all four elements of this program, stay on the program and are wildly successful.

Now, me being a man, I’m not going to the backroom and talk to a bunch of other people and share my feelings, so I do three out of the four. And then sometimes I quit even going to the meetings because I’m too busy. And in fact one time, twice I tried this idea. I said, “Well why don’t I just weigh myself at home?” I’ve got a scale. and why don’t I put a little checklist on the mirror to write down how I’m doing, and you know what happened? Every single time I tried to do this at home, what happened? Nothing. I had to pay them $15 to go have them tell me what I weighed and there’s something about this that’s very profound that you need to understand about your own behavior and your own organization.

Let me ask this, what business is Weight Watchers really in? It’s not the scales business, it’s not the weighing business. They’re in the business of helping me do something I already know how to do. But there’s something in me that needs this reinforcement. That’s what I said this third key driver is, we need reinforcement as humans to do things we already know that we should, because there’s so many distractions in life.

Stephen Covey coined this model of thinking of our lives as big rocks and pebbles in a bucket, and things falling into this thing to the point of overflow. Everyday things are coming in to Susan’s list and if you don’t have some way to organize this, big stuff falls out and you don’t even know that’s big stuff. This is a key capability for organizations that want to perform better. And so the model is more of how do you get the big rocks in your bucket? How do you get the vital few in there and keep them there each and every day?

I want to finish with this thought. This is a quote from Jesus to his disciples, talking to them in trying to get them to do what they should do. He said, “You know your spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” This is true for all of us. The only mistake that we make is not admitting it and doing something about it. We all need help in staying focused.”

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Since 2005, the Six Disciplines blog offers posts about performance excellence, strategy execution, business coaching, leadership development, innovation, and business process improvement. This blog has received prestigious awards for leadership and management and has been syndicated by several major media sources.