Saturday, April 30, 2011

Weight Watchers: An Effective Strategy Implementation Model

Seven years ago, in April 2004, I finally got serious about weight loss.  I joined Weight Watchers, set goals and over the course of the next year I meticulously logged everything I ate and drank.  I recorded measurements and tracked my progress and lost a little more than 50 pounds in 9 months.  I continued to keep careful records for another 3 months and on the one year anniversary, I decided that I knew what I was doing and I didn’t need to bother keeping records anymore.   Little by little, the weight started to come back – so slowly, in fact, that I didn’t worry about it too much at first.  After all, I know that I eat really healthy food and exercise regularly.  I do 2 or 3 sprint triathlons every year and ride 150 miles in the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s “Tour de Farms” every June.
Nevertheless, two pounds became five and then, six years and 20 pounds later, I woke up to the fact that merely knowing “what” to do isn’t good enough:  I still need to take measurements and keep records.  If things start going in the wrong direction, the sooner I am aware of the problem, the sooner I can make adjustments and get back on track.  In fact, study after study on weight management shows that the programs that are most effective in the long-term are those that require ongoing measurement and record-keeping.
So what do my weight-loss struggles have to do with your organization?  A lot. 
The problems I describe above are common in organizations:  you put a lot of work into setting a strategic direction and creating a plan.  You identify the Key Performance Indicators, create an operating plan and kick it off with great fanfare.  Then what?  You know what to do.  Now you just have to do it.
As of today, we are one-third of the way through the year 2011.  Do you know if you’re on schedule to meet the goals you set for this year?  Chances are, if you’re managing the plan, taking regularly scheduled measurements and recording your progress, you’re on track or very close.  If you’re managing by instinct, stop and take stock.  You might be surprised to discover how far you’ve deviated from plan without realizing it.  It’s all too easy to fall back into sloppy habits that can lead you astray. 
With my Weight Watchers plan, I weigh in on Wednesdays.  I’ve learned to love Wednesdays because I either get a clear confirmation of progress or not.  When I know I’m moving in the right direction, it’s an affirmation that I’m doing what I need to do.  When I’m not, I get immediate feedback that corrections are in order and I can address the problem before it gets out of hand.