The key to sustainability…Habit

Workplace improvement and weight loss programs are similar.  Quick and magical fixes are popular and preferred over hard work with incremental results.  Quick wins are frequently followed by worse outputs, greater weight gain and despondency.  The market is insatiable and every few months there is a new fad.

Whatever the improvement is; whether it’s an organization, job process or a diet, the X-factor appears to be that it needs to become a way of life.  There is no magic formula…its creating new ways and consistently being aware of what needs to be done.

I would like to highlight three things that I’ve seen work in organizations and uhm weight loss…

Measurements

I used to go to a personal trainer that insisted on taking measurements at every session.  The measurements kept me on track….the dread of it going up was deterrent enough not to eat that chocolate or have another glass of wine.  Once I reached my target weight, I decided that I don’t need the measurements (or the trainer) anymore….and I’m sure that you can guess what happened!

In both personal and organizational life, there are so many priorities that unless we have constant reminders of what and how we are doing at them, we lose focus.  Measuring performance can direct focus.  There is no need to have numerous measurements telling the same story.  Less is more, keep it simple, and decide on the focus areas and then focus!  It demonstrates the priorities best if it’s made as visible as possible.

Some organizations view measures as static or passive.  A purpose of measures is actions.  As soon as things change, analysis and actions are required to bring it back on track.  If the measures are going in the right direction it also needs some analysis so that the progress can continue.

Collaborate

Meetings are a great way of ensuring collaboration and sustainability.  Timeless weight loss programmes such as Weighless have regular meetings to provide support, increase morale and motivate people.

Unfortunately meetings have a bad reputation in organizations.  It’s typically perceived as useless because of pointless conversations, limited decision making, and the complaints sessions or dominated by a few opinions.

I’m referring to regular, short meetings.  Assess the measures, identify when it’s going well and anticipate any potential obstacles today and decide how it will be dealt with.  People can become very busy with their own things and lose sight of the bigger picture so introducing a quick daily huddle where everyone can look at the measured priorities will promote focus.

Consistent Continuous improvement

I learnt that there are two battles to keeping weight off.  The first and easiest is to reach is the target condition.  The second and tougher battle is to sustain the target condition, never mind improve on that! The only way to sustain is to pay attention every day. Some days are better and easier than others and bad days are ok, as long as a bad day is not turning into a bad week or month.  If poor performance is allowed it to slip beyond a certain point, it’s very hard to get back on track.

Organizational improvements are the same.  The real battle is not improvement or even implementation; the real battle is sustaining.  Big interventions less frequently are not sustainable.  It should become habit to experiment and improve every day, every process, and every habit.  The word continuous says it all; there is no end or selectivity to it.

Summary

Sustainability requires engagement, planning, preparations and constant attention.  There is no easy way. There is saying that nothing in life is good or bad, it’s what you think about it that makes it good or bad. Thus sustainability is dependent on thought processes which are demonstrated through attitude.

As Aristotle said: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”

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