The importance of baseline measures

January 16, 2009

obesemanYou’ve got to know where you are if you want to know where you’re going

“Well, I’m not going to sugar coat it for you. If you don’t change your habits now, you’re looking at a very long road ahead.”

That’s what the ultra fit and sculpted trainer who had been poking and prodding at my health history for the last hour said when I attended my very first fitness assessment.

“Ouch,” I thought. “But I work out all the time,” I pleaded.

“Yes. And that’s why I know you’ll reach your goals. See, the good news is that there is a huge amount of room for improvement,” he added cheerfully.

Double ouch.

I had planned this fitness assessment long before the holidays, but it just so happened that it fell during the busiest season for fitness centers: January 5th.

When I arrived, the gym was packed with people pumping furiously on their machines with almost comical ubiquity, as though they were all melting off months of overindulgence. Ah yes, the inevitable New Year’s Resolution.

I suppose it didn’t help that it was also the first day back to work after a nice, long holiday of sleeping in, and allowing myself all kinds of decadence (read: cheese, chocolate and wine).

So after I failed to do even one proper push-up, I looked at the trainer with some self-pity and resigned myself to another half hour of designing the “right program” for me.

You see, for years I’ve been going to the gym. I’ve always watched what I eat and I rarely go for more than a few weeks without being regularly active: I ride my bike, walk, go to yoga or I run.

All this time, my results have been varied – and lately, it’s been more like a steady decline in overall wellness. Clearly the calorie has been winning. But how would I know what to improve, if I didn’t have a detailed picture of what was going on?

That’s why I decided to get a fitness assessment. By recording baseline measures like my resting heart rate, blood pressure, body fat composition, weight and water mass, I could – for the first time ever – form a much more accurate picture of my health. And so, while the results were less than ideal, at least I knew where things stood.

As I looked around the room, it occurred to me that I was one of those people who spent years killing myself on a treadmill, with no clue about whether it was actually making any changes. Just like the other 80% of the people at the gym, I continued doing the same thing, expecting to a different outcome.

In business, we talk about the importance of change in order to learn, grow and improve. This means having a new vision, repeating new skills and changing the way we see the world. But just like my fitness assessment, none of this means anything without baseline measures.

At Tatham, we see this all the time. A potential client will say, “Everything is going well in our company, we just want to make some small adjustments.” Perhaps, but before you can start making any changes, you’ve got to know where to make them.

That’s why collecting basic measures is paramount. These include asking the customer what they want, looking at the current process yield, finding out cycle time and looking for patterns. Otherwise, you’ll end up huffing and puffing, but never truly achieving your goal.

The moral of the story? Find out where you are, so that you will know where you’re going. Only then will you have the right measures and the right direction to make lasting change.