Resolving Problems in the Fitness Industry Often Requires Going Deep

All organizations go through changes as they grow. Effective managers must be knowledgeable of the developmental nature of change and the impact it can have on teams.

Creating organizational change requires four steps. The first step is to assess the need for change by recognizing that a problem exists and identifying its source. The second is to decide what change is needed by determining the organization’s ideal future state and the obstacles that may occur during change. The third step is to apply the change and decide whether change will occur from the top down or bottom up. The final step is to evaluate the change by comparing the situation before and after the change.

My business partner, Will Phillips, the founder of REX Roundtables for Executives, has found that when business owners work through problems, they can do so using three fairly distinct but interrelated agendas for tackling problems. Business operators usually can find a strategy in one agenda, even if progress in the other agendas is stymied.

Most organizations use the first agenda, which contains the content issues: the mission of the business, the plan, marketing, sales, operations, human resources and customer retention. When businesses have issues, it is typically because they have problems in implementing the first agenda. In the first agenda, you may look at the issue of decreased sales at your fitness facility and conclude that you must increase your marketing efforts. However, that plan may not go deep enough. You might have to look at the second agenda for help.

While the first agenda focuses on the work, the second agenda focuses on the organization and the mechanisms that bring people together with resources to accomplish the organization’s purpose. This agenda includes plans, strategies, structure, delegation, staffing, systems for communication, coordination and control, resource allocation methods, formal and informal rewards and recognition systems, and the culture of the organization.

The second agenda addresses group process issues (how the group is organized, what the processes of the team are, how the interaction between individuals is structured and what structures and systems are in place to support change). Few business operators delve into the second agenda unless implementing the first agenda does not work. Small changes in the second agenda can drive large improvements in the first agenda. However, business owners can achieve better results by redistributing resources to emphasize the second agenda.

The third agenda focuses on individual development, change and transformation. You learn more about how you perceive the world and your relationship/impact on those with whom you work. This happens most often and most constructively when the goals, roles, rules, resources and rewards of how the organization operates are clear, meaningful and mutually supportive. To delve into the third agenda requires courage and humility. Max DePree, author of “Leadership Is an Art,” has stated that the biggest challenge in personal transformation is learning to let go of who you are so you can become who you can be. As he wrote in his book “Sacred Hoops,” former Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers basketball coach Phil Jackson used the process of personal growth and transformation as the basis for his coaching that helped him turn a group of superstars into a super team.

Many organizations are stalled because of third agenda issues that occur when a key person, such as a CEO or a department head, has a serious blind spot. A blind spot is an area where you do not acknowledge your weakest leadership or management quality. By being blind to it, you cannot overcome it, which means that the first and second agendas will suffer. No amount of corrective action in the first two agendas can resolve a serious third agenda issue.

It may not always be best to attack problems head on because the problem that you see may not be the real problem. To resolve an issue, you may have to explore these deeper agendas, perhaps even starting with the third agenda.


Ed Tock is a partner with REX Roundtables, which runs roundtables for business owners and chief executives. As a consultant, he has worked with more than 1,000 clubs since 1983. He can be reached at 845-736-0307.

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