What We Can Learn from the Weight-Loss Industry

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The weight-loss industry has been built around the idea that we don’t do the things we should and they help us do these them. I find it a fascinating industry and one that we can all learn from – particularly Weight Watchers. This is a multi-billion dollar business with an interesting business model. I’ve been a member myself. My wife and I have been on and off, me mostly off.

There are four key components to Weight Watchers’ model.

First, they have a methodology. They tell you what you should eat – more of these kinds of foods, less of these kinds of foods, and then they document that in a methodology, in a checklist that provides guidance.

Then you attend meetings, pay them $15, stand on a scale and they hold you accountable. They write down what your weight is, take your $15 and then hand you a checklist or a login to a website for you to keep track of whether you’re following the methodology.

So, you have the methodology, the check-in and 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 the type of guy I am, I’m not going to the back room 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 so 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!

To succeed I had to pay them $15 and have them tell me what I weighed. There’s something about this that’s very profound that you need to understand about your behavior and your organization.

So 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 their crucial driver is. We need reinforcement as humans to do things we already know that we should because there are so many distractions in life.

In order to execute effectively, organizations require a management process or methodology that includes and prioritizes accountability and reinforcement. Without these two critical practices, business performance will stagnate similar to a weight loss industry drop out.

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