At the risk of alienating a few of you who are sick of golf-related posts, I want to tell you about a tournament in which I participated over the last three days. It inspired some business thinking as I reflected on it so I feel it appropriate to share with you. I guess I’ll see the rest of you tomorrow!
The tournament was one in which I was paired with another club member for three days. Each day we played golf but the format varied by round. The first round was what’s known as a scramble – each player on the team hits, we pick the better shot, and both hit the next shot from there. Rinse, repeat for 18 holes. It’s a format that encourages thoughtful, aggressive play. One partner hits a safe shot, the other can try something more difficult since there is no penalty for failure.
The next day was best ball. Each partner plays their own ball, handicap strokes are deducted, and the better net score is written down for each hole. This is basic golf. While there is some strategy, it’s not much different from the regular game one plays all the time.
Finally, there was alternate shot. In this format, both players tee off, the best drive is selected, and then the player that didn’t hit the chosen drive hits the next shot. Players alternate shots from there until the ball is holed. It is a tremendously difficult format in many ways, the biggest of which is that a bad shot forces your partner to fix your mistake. There is a fair amount of strategic thinking if you hit two good drives. Who should hit onto the green? Who do we want putting? Weak players are exposed and better players often feel helpless since they can’t display their skill while trying to recover from a partner’s miss.
The similarities with business are what struck me this morning. The rules and conditions are ever-changing even while the basic game remains the same. One must adapt or die. You have to build your team so that you can play under any condition. Teams that had done well in the first two formats posted horrific scores yesterday because one player was very good while the other was pretty bad. Attention to the strategy appropriate for the situation is always critical in golf and more so given the changes to the rules each day. Finally, one bad hole doesn’t kill your team nor does one bad day or quarter in business. Maintaining a good positive attitude with the big picture in mind can deliver a trophy; staying mad about the bad hole (or quarter!) can keep the negative results coming.
We won our group (by a stroke!), mostly on the basis of delivering solid results each day. That’s not a bad thing for any business to do. Wouldn’t you agree?