What a little white ball teaches us about business

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Starting my own company has greatly improved my golf game.  It is one of the advantages of a forced sabbatical.  I am not only hitting the ball better and more consistently, but I am also thinking more strategically about my approach to the game.

If I know a course, I have a good idea of how the fairways slope, where the hazards lie, when to be aggressive, and when to play it safe.  That experience shapes my approach on the tee and my decision to pull out a 5-iron (safe shot, get it in the fairway) or the driver (grip it and rip it).

Experience can be both beneficial and disadvantageous. I cannot tell you how many times I go for the aggressive shot because one time four years ago it paid off, even though it hasn’t since.  The memory of a past success is very strong in golf, and it is the same in business.  We tend towards optimism when making business decisions, even when we know there is no guarantee of replicating that success.  Each shot and each business decision needs to be viewed at that point in time, accounting for variables (risks) that can have both positive and negative impacts.  Is the weather colder? Is it more windy?  Is there a new competitor?  In Six Sigma, the Failure Mode Effects Analysis (FMEA) is a great way to look at potential risks to success and document actions to mitigate those risks.  You don’t need to be a Six Sigma expert to benefit from it.

When playing an unfamiliar course, I find that my approach is much more cautious.  Because I don’t know the layout, pulling out the driver on every hole increases the risk level.  Minimize the risk, improve my score (in theory).  Recently, my buddy and I were paired up with someone else who knew a course well, and his knowledge influenced my club selection throughout the round.  He had experience in a particular area and we took advantage of that knowledge.  He acted like a mentor.  I still have to execute (the shot, the business plan, the project plan), but the confidence level increases with the level of information available.

Thanks to Marty Gajan for the kernel of the idea for this blog post. If you have any questions or needs regarding electronic document archiving and retention, he is the man.  He will also gladly whip your butt on the golf course.

I appreciate everyone who reads these blogs.  I hope you find them interesting, amusing, and useful.  Please leave comments and I’ll pretend I have thick skin.

Related blog post can be found here  (author not listed).  Similarities are coincidental.

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