Like any business, health clubs can experience challenges when it comes to how they operate and perform. Whether your fitness business is small, large, growing, or mature, there is always an opportunity to improve execution. While many obstacles can contribute to underperformance, in my experience, significant barriers to success are often the result of a lack of clarity, coordination, and communication. By setting the right goals, improving your team’s focus, creating transparency, and enhancing communication and accountability, your chances of winning tend to go up. However, doing this is not always easy.
You might have read ABC Financial’s recent post 2019 News And Trends Serve As An Indicator For The Health Club Industry In The Years Ahead in which key trends, including significant industry growth and a more complex competitive landscape, were discussed. As 2020 approaches, staying ahead of these market forces means selecting the right strategies, setting the proper goals, and enabling your team to work together more effectively will become more important than ever. So, how can fitness organizations improve?
The team at ABC Financial has been working to enhance our own performance by utilizing a targeted set of strategies and frameworks. One of those tools, created in the years ago at Intel, is Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), a popular management strategy for goal setting within organizations. If you want to achieve better performance in your health club business and have not heard of OKRs before, it might be a framework to consider.
The OKRs concept was introduced for the first time at Intel in the ‘70s. Since 1999, when Google started to adopt OKRs, companies in diverse industries such as LinkedIn, Salesforce, Netflix, GoPro, Amazon, Walmart, Target, and Dun and Bradstreet have implemented the OKRs framework with great success.
A significant advocate of OKRs is John Doerr, who learned about the concept from Andy Grove at Intel and helped to implement it in some of his key investments with well-known companies like Google. John is a well-respected engineer, venture capitalist, and chairman of Kleiner Perkins. He was an original investor and board member at Google and Amazon. He wrote a handbook about setting and achieving goals with the OKRs concept titled Measure What Matters. Through his book and platform, WhatMatters.com, he shares valuable lessons from some of the most accomplished innovators of our time. I recommend you check out his TED Talk, Why The Secret To Success Is Setting The Right Goals.
The central tenet of OKRs is establishing structural goal setting. Similar to the hierarchical nature of a pyramid, OKRs start from an ambitious, big-picture objective. This Objective is measured by several metrics, called Key Results, which should help answer one question: Is the goal achieved or not? The same approach then cascades to all departments, teams, and specialists at the bottom of the pyramid. The idea is to organize all management logic in a transparent way in which everyone can understand their role in the achievement of a common goal and will be motivated by this challenge.
Objectives and Key Results match two purposes. The Objective is the direction. The Key Results are the measurement you can reference later and, without any argument, answer, "Did I do that, or did I not do that?"
The OKRs framework can also greatly help synchronize how team members integrate their business’s purpose while highlighting their roles in contributing to it. An obstacle for many leaders is effectively managing and coordinating efforts. A clear system that defines how to distribute and prioritize tasks can save many hours and enhance clarity among teams. This is a discipline and approach I have used in prior leadership roles and is one we continue to adopt with the team at ABC Financial.
If you are just starting out, you may wonder what makes OKRs so helpful in not only setting but also achieving team and individual goals. You may consider why you should start using the OKRs framework. Well, the process provides some great benefits. In an interview with Harvard Business Review, John Doerr identified five key benefits of OKRs. The benefits spell out the acronym "FACTS" -- so, it could be said that OKRs give us "just the FACTS.” Here are the 5 FACTS according to John:
1. Focus: Focus is the first benefit of OKRs because, when setting OKRs, limiting your scope is key. The OKRs framework accommodates more than one objective, but always less than seven. As a rule of thumb, fewer is better. Every Objective should fit on one line. As for Key Results, you should have no greater than five per Objective. By limiting the number of items to focus on, OKRs really force making choices. An OKRs cycle should start with the question, “What is most important for the next three, six, or twelve months?” This time-bound query sets OKRs apart from other goal-setting systems because they bring to the surface the handful of initiatives that can make a real, immediate difference while deferring those that are less urgent. By standing firmly behind a few top-line OKRs, leaders give their teams a compass and a baseline for assessment.
2. Alignment: Once top-line Objectives are set, the real work begins. As they shift from planning OKRs to execution, managers tie their day-to-day activities to the organization’s vision. The term for this linkage is alignment, and its value cannot be overemphasized. Companies with highly-aligned employees are more than twice as likely to be top performers.
3. Commitment: After focus and alignment come commitments. Commitments are OKRs that all have agreed will be achieved, and schedules and resources will be adjusted to ensure that they are delivered. Tracking these commitments is done transparently. Each team member must create very clear signals for everyone that they are working towards their OKRs. Tracking progress can be done by several methods, whether your team utilizes a simple Google Sheet or an OKRs software tracking tool such as BetterWorks. Above all, drive alignment by sharing OKRs progress via highly visible methods, such as in your monthly all-hands meeting or posting them on the office walls.
4. Tracking: Tracking OKRs from output to outcome is why management by objectives is so popular with great companies. Every OKR should be trackable using the original metrics established when they were written. While OKRs don’t require daily tracking, regular reviews are essential. Having these reference points is the secret sauce to drive success on each OKR. Are you on track to meet this Objective? Why or why not?
5. Stretching: "Stretching" is the final benefit but not the least important. For example, Larry Page, the high priest of 10x-ing everything by stretching goals further. He would say, “I’d rather have the Objective be to go to Mars, and if we fall short, we’ll get to the moon. This is how you make moonshots.’" OKRs inherently push organizations to strive further and eke out a little more than what they thought was possible.
There are some great resources and tools for implementing OKRs in your fitness and health club business on John's website.
Our team at ABC Financial continues to focus on providing valuable insights, tools, and resources for the health club industry and, most importantly, for our customers. Thanks go to everyone on the ABC Financial team and our valued customers and partners as we work together to gain a deeper understanding of the needs of our customers and discover how we can help them achieve greater business success given a convergence of industry, consumer, and technology trends. Hopefully, this post about why measuring what matters and the OKRs tools I shared will be helpful as you plan for 2020 and the decade ahead. We would enjoy the opportunity to discuss how we can help you become a more effective health club operator in the next decade of the fitness industry. Feel free to reach out to our team to learn more.