I've been working out for nearly three months now, all the while watching what I eat a little more carefully and staying committed to a pretty regular and fairly vigorous workout: 25 minutes on the elliptical trainer, 25 minutes on the treadmill (briskly walking for 5 minutes, jogging for 15 minutes, then cooling down for 5 minutes), a 10-minute ab workout (mostly from pilates class) and some quick weights if I have time. I've been doing this 3-4 times per week and have noticed that I'm feeling in much better shape. The only issue is that, well, I haven't really lost any weight. The weight loss in the past three months has been equivalent to a dehydration weight loss...about 3-4 lbs. That's frustrating. At one point I stood on the scale and had actually gained weight! Talk about discouraging!
The most frustrating part for me was that, in my 'younger days' (I hate that I just said that), I could lose 5 lbs in a week of watching what I was eating and doing light exercise. When I graduated from university in 1999, I had put on MORE than a freshman 15...in 3 months by just cutting down my carb intake (not Atkins-level, though), I lost 50 lbs and was a svelt 145 lbs (I'm 5'9" and rather large framed, so that is skinny for me) and wore a size 6. I was able to more or less maintain that weight for many subsequent years.
But something happened to my body and it doesn't respond like that anymore. I consulted with a personal trainer who told me I need to workout 5-6 days per week, do 300 minutes of cardio in total (and not running, necessarily, but walking, etc.), a more rigorous weight routine and really, really watch what I eat (the carb thing won't work anymore, I need to think about lowering fat, too). Then, I can probably lose 5-10 lbs per month (depending on how well I stick to the plan). WTF?! 5-10 lbs?! For all of that? Ugh.
The reason I'm telling you this is not because I need more weight loss tips or anything (although they are always welcome), it's because I realized that my changing body and it's resistance to diet and exercise is a good metaphor for how the world of marketing has changed.
Just like I can no longer take for granted that my body will respond to the same routines it responded to in 1999, businesses have to adjust to the way the market responds. Many businesses fall into the trap of having something work in the beginning, then formulating it so that it's done the same way for subsequent years, then wonder why it doesn't work anymore.
I just got back from meeting with many awesome peeps at Zappos.com in Las Vegas. I already knew I hearted them very much because of how much of a delight they made shopping for shoes online. As a busy woman who loves shoes, but has no time to shop, Zappos has been awesome. But amongst the many awesome things Tony Hsieh told me about the company's philosophy, one of the most awesome was (paraphrased):
"One of our core principles is to embrace and drive change. Change happens. It's inevitable. For us, it seems it happens every couple of weeks. We lead a culture of experimentation rather than one of strict processes. This way, we can always be responsive to the rapidly changing needs of customers, vendors, employees and our many other partners."
This is a company with 1700 employees that is on track to make $1 billion dollars this year - not a scrappy little startup, so this outlook is significantly risky. Or is it? Tony's approach to business is much like Agile Development: small, incremental iterations - but done smartly, towards a goal of creating the ultimate customer happiness. In fact, they also embrace failure in these iterations - as learning opportunities - and don't let these setbacks stop everyone from continuing to come up with more ideas.
When I joked with Tony about them not being ISO 9000 compliant, he asked, "What's that?" He seriously hadn't heard of it.
Measurements aren't dead and strategic planning isn't either, but focusing too much on processes can keep one from being agile enough to embrace opportunities and a changing marketplace along the way. The irony of 'playing it safe' is that it can turn out to be the biggest risk of all as you watch smaller, more agile companies zoom past you.
So if you'll excuse me, I have to go back to responding to the changes in my body and most likely realize that I have to embrace the fact that I probably won't be 145 lbs again and be okay with that.