Three golf lessons for Lean Six Sigma

Three lessons Lean Six Sigma professionals can learn from golf
This coming weekend is the Players Championship in professional golfing. This tournaments is best known for the island green at the 17th hole, you’ve probably seen it. If you watch any of the tournament there are three lessons that Lean Six Sigma professionals can learn from golfers.

1. “Take dead aim” – This was a saying from the late Harvey Penick, a famous golf instructor. It has two meanings, first, aim at the target. For golfers it’s the flag stick on the green. For companies it’s the organizational objectives. This is where key performance indicators (KPIs) and SMART goals come in. Where is the flag stick for your organization? Secondly, it highlights focus. Taking dead aim means for the two seconds you are swinging the golf club you are not thinking about anything else. Focus is the opposite of multitasking, we (Lean Six Sigma folks) don’t like multitasking. We want people to focus on the activity and complete it from start to finish. If a golfer tried to hit a ball while thinking about the next hole, the result could be a ball in the water. When workers are distracted they tend to complete tasks slower and make more errors. I think we can all apply Harvey Penick’s wisdom and take dead aim.

2. Have a short memory – It’s often said to be a great golfer you have to have a short memory. This means you have to forget about a bad swing and focus on the next swing. Golfers cannot spend lots of time dwelling on past mistakes. They only have a few minutes before they have to take the next shot. To be successful Lean Six Sigma facilitators we must have the same short memory. Facilitators need to identify where they are, where the team is going and develop a strategy to get them there. Every failure is a point of recovery; as the saying goes – “When going thru hell, keep going”.

3. Continuous Improvement – The uncommon aspect about the sport of golf is there is no defense. Your opponent can’t make a diving catch or a do a double leg slide to block your putt (it would make golf a little more fun to watch). Golfers only have to work at being the best they can be, both mentally and physically. Even the best golfers in the world are striving to get better – continuously. Golfers and companies alike cannot rely on the failure of competitors in order to succeed, the continuous improvement mentality is about striving to be better today than we were yesterday. Education and training are the key enablers in developing a continuous improvement mindset. This is the cornerstone of Lean Six Sigma.

So, as you watch the players championship this weekend keep in mind the parallels between golf and Lean Six Sigma. I enjoy watching how golfers respond after hitting the ball in the water on the 17th.

See you at the 19th hole, Erik