May 17, 2012

CrossFit: a New Model for Testing Organizational “Fitness”

Lately, some of you may have heard me talk (obsess) about CrossFit.   For those of you who’ve only seen the Reebok commercials, let’s start with what CrossFit is: “constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement,” with the stated goal of improving fitness (and therefore general physical preparedness), which it defines as “work capacity across broad time and modal domains.” Thanks Wikipedia.

That’s an interesting definition, no?  Let’s look at it:

  • constantly varied
  • high intensity
  • functional
  • preparedness
  • work capacity
  • over time and varied domains

Those who participate in CrossFit will tell you the workout changes daily – causing a need for adaptability.  Rarely can you get away with not giving all you have.  The wide variety of moves and the often-used collaborative/team approaches means you are often working with someone to develop functional skills.  But don’t get me wrong, it’s highly competitive.  Everyone wants to do his or her personal best, as well as better than everyone else.

That being said, you can find a great deal of support – CrossFit also has an online community model.  Every last workout is published.  They give it away.  You can log all your activity for free.  You can see your progress or benchmark yourself.  You can be as involved or uninvolved as you like.  Some people prefer an independent study – no gym at all.  Others feel the need for support and finally there are those seeking the camaraderie of sweating profusely together.

That sounds a lot like a model for a running a strong business as well.  CrossFit is low-tech fitness.  It requires very little equipment.  It doesn’t focus on a lot of shiny new toys.  The gym is called a box and what a person puts in that box is what he or she can expect to get out of it.  When you show up, you agree to be engaged and present.  It’s not really optional.  It almost abhors “pretty fitness.”  Most participants go to “do the work.”  It’s not a hangout, it’s a workout.  There is no juicebar.  This is a focus on effectiveness and efficiency: the absolute in productivity. You can’t be effective if you haven’t learned the techniques.  You can’t expect to be able to do more with less effort – to get lean, long and strong – unless you’ve shown up continually.  Efficiency only comes with understanding what to do and continuously improving on your ability to deliver.  What’s more, we know it works.

On this blog, we’ve talked a lot recently about innovation, about simplicity as a means to remove obstacles to progress.  We’ve discussed education versus training – understanding why as well as how; developing mastery.

When you seek to reshape your organization, all of these things matter.  So, we’d suggest you go back through that bulleted list.  Determine how you are cross-training your organization to deliver high performance in a dynamic environment, developing deep functional knowledge that increases productivity.

We at Covalent also find the CrossFit model gives us an interesting prototype on which to build.  We continually cross-train our consultants to work toward widely varied goals; to build a broad and deep understanding of techniques that work to deliver results across wildly different situations.  We also ask people to continually act as a community, in giving assistance, offering advice, sharing what we know and how we can help as well as sometimes just offering up a deep throated rallying cry.  We work together and independently to succeed.  We need to deliver both.

We are working hard to keep our skills fresh for our clients, for our communities and for ourselves.  What are you doing to give your organization the same chance?

– Ryan