The Biggest…

I’ve started a list of things change implementers (that’s you) can learn from the hit TV show, The Biggest Loser.

  • Seek out volunteers.
  • Ask for permission to push these volunteers to their limits.
  • Live the lifestyle you recommend.
  • Allow people to quit.
  • Praise liberally.
  • Keep the goal in sight.
  • Measure your progress often and publicly.
  • Add some competition where you can.

Seek out volunteers. As far as I know the producers of the show aren’t tracking every contestant down and demanding that they participate in the show.  Instead, in most cases, the producers are seeking volunteers who want to make a substantial change in their lives, but for a list of reasons have been unsuccessful without concentrated help.

Ask for permission to push these volunteers to their limits. Jillian and Bob don’t let the contestants settle for incremental change.  They set a high, but achievable, bar for each contestants performance and constantly challenge them to overcome it.  Imagine what you could do in an implementation if you got that type of permission!

Live the lifestyle you recommend. This is their version of the old saying, “walking the talk.”  Jillian and Bob work out and eat right, the same habits they are encouraging the contestants to take on.  If Jillian and Bob were out of shape and overweight, it’s likely the contestants would give up sooner, if they even tried in the first place.  So, sharpen your skills at acting the behaviors you want before you go implementing those behaviors onto or even with others.

Allow people to quit. There are some that leave The Biggest Loser of their own free will.  They’ve been given the huge opportunity to have guaranteed time to work on something they’ve said will change their lives and yet some still walk away.  So too in your implementations, you must let people exercise their will to walk away.  Let them prove you wrong and win their own way. That’s okay too.  Let them fail on their own and come back to your implementation when they see fit.  Keep your attention on those who’ve stayed with you.  They are the ones that matter most.

Praise liberally. Don’t withhold hard-won praise, even when the accomplishment seems small to you.  Jillian might not think twice about doing 100 sit-ups, but for a contestant who hasn’t done 5 sit-ups in their whole life, she knows to offer true praise early and often.

Keep the goal in sight. Regularly the contestants are reminded why they are on the show and why that matters to them.  They never get far from their goal as they go through their daily routines.  Those of us who’ve tried to implement a new project, but only on the bi-weeks, know that you can’t intermittently notice the goal.  Focus on that goal all the time and you’ll keep moving toward it.

Measure your progress often and publicly. On The Biggest Loser they have frequent, public weigh-ins, where they report the governing metric, a contestants weight loss since the last weigh in.  Notice the measure isn’t their weight, but instead is their rate of progress toward their goal weight.  Weight lost is a measure of motion.  And, they report this governing metric publicly.  There’s no meeting with Jillian for a private weigh-in to avoid embarrassments when you’ve had a bad week.  There’s no complaints, “Well, the scale hasn’t been calibrated in the past three seconds so you can’t trust that number. Next slide.” Sigh!   Create measures of your progress toward your goal and then publicly display that measure as often and as publicly as you can.  Accountability loves the light!

Add some competition where you can. Some people can get excited about competing against themselves, but those people seem rare.  Most of us want to compare ourselves to others.  One team wants to beat the next, whether they are on The Biggest Loser or in your organization.  Come up with clever ways to pit your implementation group against another.  If you’re trying to gain organization-wide compliance, try offering a prize to the group within the organization that gets the highest compliance rate during a three-month audit.

Your thoughts: Can you think of other lessons from The Biggest Loser that apply to implementing change?

1 thought on “The Biggest…”

  1. I have mixed thoughts on The Biggest Loser. I loathe the fake scripted product placements. The fact that two seasons ago I saw Jack-in-the Box ads during the show was humorously ironic. Then there’s all the drama…

    Still, I can find at least one good thing to note. While the competition does cause contestants to sometimes backstab and turn on each other, getting voted off isn’t the end of the world. There is still a consolation prize and earning it is all on them. Now there are in the real world and have to find ways to keep losing weight. And they rise to the challenge. So I guess the theme is, “If at first you don’t succeed, don’t give up. Try harder.”

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