The golden rule of strategy

Ever watch that tv reality series The Biggest Loser?  The one where a group of obese people compete against each other with the objective of winning a big cash prize by losing as much weight as possible? While not an avid fan of the show, I will sit down and watch it from time to time.

Anyway, what I like about The Biggest Loser is that it highlights my three crucial principles of strategy, as well as my strategy golden rule.  The principles are:

Principle One: When you control your environment, you control your performance.

Principle Two: When you can’t control your environment, performance suffers.

Principle Three: When strategic planning, your priority is to identify areas that position yourself, your organization, team etc in such a way that you can best control your environment.

Put together, these three principles form my golden rule of strategy, which is:

“Create and compete in an environment you can control”

Golden-Rule-Strategy-Ben-M-Bartlett

This rule is incredibly powerful and the essence of the rule is this: In any endeavour where you want to achieve a goal – such as growing a business, losing weight or winning a sports contest – the key to success is to create and compete in an environment you can control.

The rule also means this.  If you are stuck, and your current performance sucks…you need to change elements of your existing environment…or change environments altogether.

Business owners become successful when they control their environment.  Sports teams and athletes succeed when they control their environment.  So figuring out how to create an environment you can control is your key priority. This is what great strategy-making and planning is all about.

Here’s how the rule applies to The Biggest Loser.  On the show the weight loss success rate is nigh on 100%.  In other words, almost all contestants lose weight – with some losing as much as 50% of their bodyweight over a 3-4 month period.

Now this is a big achievement because going in to the show, all the contestants are obese, weighing as much as 350 lbs.  Many contestants have had lifelong struggles with their weight and have tried and failed on traditional weight loss regimens.

Why is the success rate so high?  In a nutshell it is because contestants are in a highly controlled environment that allows them to perform.  Let me explain.

At the start of the show contestants come together to The Biggest Loser mansion, and while there their environment is tightly controlled.  There is little in the way of outside distractions, food intake is closely monitored and contestants undertake a rigid exercise program.  Added to that is the peer pressure, competitive aspect and the opportunity to win a large amount of money. No wonder contestants succeed.

Here is further evidence that it’s the environment that determines how successful these contestants become.

Each week on the show the contestants who lose the least amount of weight are eliminated.  And, when contestants are eliminated they return back home to their old, uncontrolled environments.

Now here are two fascinating things about the eliminations.  Firstly, at the end of the series all of the contestants are reunited as part of the show’s finale.  And what do we see in that finale?  In almost all cases, those contestants who were eliminated early – and therefore didn’t benefit greatly from being in a controlled environment – lost the least amount of weight.

Secondly, once the series ends and contestants return back to their old environments, most contestants regain weight.  For instance, the winner of the first ever Biggest Loser weighed 330Ibs at the start of the series, lost 122lbs to win the big prize, but his weight climbed back up to 323lbs within the following 18 months.  Old environment equals old behaviors.

The Biggest Loser offers some big lessons that can be applied to business, career and personal performance.  You can apply these lessons to help you improve in your business, lose weight, improve your personal fitness levels, become a better parent, husband, father etc, to progress in your career and much more.

Lesson One.  It’s worth repeating:  When you control your environment, you control your performance.

Lesson Two:  When you can’t control your environment, performance suffers.

Lesson Three:  When strategic planning, your priority is to identify areas that position yourself, your organization, team etc in such a way that you can best control your environment.