In 2005, Golf Digest calculated that the countries with most golf courses per capita, starting with the best endowed were: Scotland, New Zealand, Australia, Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Canada, Wales, United States, Sweden, and England. The first golf course in the People's Republic of China opened in 1984, but by the end of 2009 there were roughly 600 in the country.
The world market for golf club sales is £1.5 billion. The UK market is £100 million. The largest market in the world is the US. The second largest is Japan. The third largest is the UK. Callaway Golf has the largest share of the UK market in woods (15%). Wilson and Ping have joint largest share of the UK market in irons (12%). Ping has the largest share of the UK market in putters (28%). 4 million people play golf in the UK. 2 million of those are members of private golf clubs and of these 80% are men and 20% women. There are 15,000 golf courses around the world that cover an area more than one third the size of Belgium. So, golf is very popular.
Of course, the other major use of the handicap is to provide me with a target or benchmark. If I consistently play better than my handicap, I feel good and my handicap goes down. Conversely, if I play poorly, then my handicap goes up.
I have a clear and unambiguous target - my handicap.
So, like millions of other golfers I pay money to a professional for lessons and practice to improve my technique. I read
books, watch youtube videos of how to swing a club correctly, practice putting in my hallway, and take divots from my
lawn. So, I have access to a host of tools to help improve my game. (A little like consultants and best practice in business).
And yet, ...and yet…my handicap remains at a stubborn 14. Despite all the tools and practice with those tools & feedback, my performance fails to improve. My desire for change somehow fails to translate into any appreciable improvement. I continue to waste valuable shots.
As an aside, I almost always under-club myself, landing short of the green - often through taking too high a club – perhaps to impress myself!!! Conversely, analysing most professional golfers performance, they tend to be on or through the green – supporting the adage “never up, never in.”
And talking of the professionals, improvement in performance is their job (A little like consultants reducing 'waste' in business).
And just look at some of the benefits of reducing wasted shots:
(Note: this data looks very similar to the sort of data that emerges in Six Sigma analyses and suggests looking after the small accurate actions of those at the coal-face provides the biggest returns).
So, it really does look as though we “Drive for show and putt for dough.” (A little like being in a business - as long as you're shooting up the fairway in the right direction [Strategy] it's the small stuff, especially the small stuff in our heads that one really ought to sweat).
Another saying which equally applies, is that old favourite “A bad workman blames his tools.” This fails to be adopted by most golfers who invest huge sums of money in buying better equipment in the vain hope that it will somehow magically improve their performance (Like new IT or CapEx equipment in business). Off they go to the driving range, bright new equipment in hand, and practice their slice or hook till the sun sets. Yes, that’s right, just watch a driving range and you will find the poorer players hitting as many balls as they can, as fast as they can, as far as they can.
Then watch a pro practice, they work slowly through the range of clubs from wedge to driver. Each ball is hit slowly and
time taken to review the outcome and use the feedback to change the swing, grip, stance. Above all, the pro is looking to eliminate wasteful shots and improve consistency of performance. In Sigma terms, they are trying to reduce the number
of deviations or in Lean terms, reduce the waste of “re-work. ”
So, all these lessons, equipment sales and practice are aimed at improving performance. But the pros, who make the biggest improvements in their games, have something else beyond tools and technical prowess. They have an attitude, a belief system, they genuinely challenge their assumptions. Sometimes, this means a huge drop in their performance as an assumption is challenged and they rebuild their whole swing, like Nick Faldo a few years back.
In the modern game, pros don’t just have coaches…they also have nutritionists, fitness trainers and PR support. But above all, they have psychologists.
Once you achieve a certain level of performance, it is clear that to gain the competitive edge then it all comes down to understanding your brain and yourself. To some extent this is also recognised by the amateurs who have bought huge volumes of books on the Psychology of Golf, such as Tim Gallweys’ The Inner Game.
“The primary discovery of the Inner Game is that, especially in our culture of achievement-oriented activities, human beings significantly get in their own way. The point of the Inner Game is always the same -- to reduce mental interferences that inhibit the full expression of human potential.”
The performance equation
The basic truth is that our performance of any task depends as much on the extent to which we interfere with our abilities as it does on those abilities themselves.
This can be expressed as a formula: P = p - i
In this equation P refers to Performance, which we define as the result you achieve - what you actually wind up feeling, achieving and learning.
Similarly, p stands for potential, defined as your innate ability -- what you are naturally capable of.
And i means interference - your capacity to get in your own way.
Most people try to improve their performance (P) by increasing their potential (p) through practicing and learning new skills. The Inner Game approach, on the other hand, is to reduce interference (i) at the same time that potential (p) is being trained -- and the result is that our actual performance comes closer to our true potential.
What’s this got to do with lean & 6 Sigma?
It may be obvious from the foregoing golfing analogy, but in case it is not, lets consider the approach of most organisations in terms of change.
Most change programmes involve a series of sequential phases, considering in order:
1. Tools & Techniques - Training and implementation (3-5 year period of resistance requiring more investment in time money and effort to see through).
2. Strategy - Development and deployment (3-5 year period of resistance requiring more investment in time money and effort to see through).
3. Culture change - A Way of Thinking (Typically a tools / process / analysis approach to reflect the tools approach in the market, that does NOT focus on the component parts of culture in respect to 'Human Factors').
However, drawing the parallel of the professional golfer, most organisations who embark on change, already have a reasonable level of performance (they have the tools, techniques and strategy). They look for change (in response to external pressures or opportunities) in order to raise their existing performance. But, just as the professional golfer finds, improving performance is predicated on challenging very entrenched (even practiced) performance and ways of thinking (Habits and Beliefs). i.e. current capability can interfere with progress.
Successfully recognising and challenging such assumptions (interference) – requires a new way of thinking is deployed as the precursor to other actions and activities. Challenging ones assumptions and beliefs about 'What works' underpins and enables change; a change to 'belief' & 'assumption' is not an emergent property of change developed through tools and strategy, but a change to strategy, tools and performance is inevitable where a change to belief and assumption can be facilitated.
Let's provide an example. I played a reasonable game of golf for many years but eventually went to a professional for a lesson. He asked me to play a few shots up the practice area. I tried to impress and was quite pleased with the results – straight up the middle – I was chuffed – nothing wrong with that! . He smiled and disappeared into the clubhouse, returning with a video camera. On the playback he asked me “Where are you aiming?” It turned out I was aiming way to the right of the target in order to compensate for my significant hooking tendency. He proposed that to improve I would need to change my whole swing. Then we worked on the tools – my stance, grip and swing. After much practice I now actually aim at the hole, and get much more distance and consistency in my performance. So what did he do for me? As a coach, before he looked at the practical aspects of my performance, he challenged my fundamental assumptions and beliefs by showing me a video playback and giving me a new perspective from which to assess 'what works'.
Once my mind was open to seeing something in a new way, I could accept that I wasn’t hitting the ball straight at all!
So, reflecting on typical change programmes for the organisation that is performing ok and wants to perform at a higher level, we need coaches who can help us see ourselves as we really are, to challenge our assumptions, our beliefs and ways of thinking.
Only then can we properly adapt our tools and techniques to deliver a better performance. So, perhaps we might suggest the appropriate order of intervention in change programmes is;
1. Address our 'Way of Thinking' - Including those 'Human Factors' which lead to 'Culture' as an emergent property of 'people'.
2. Develop and Deploy our Strategy - Ensuring it is psychologically congruent (once we understand step 1.).
3. Implement Tools & Techniques (The most suitable best practice for our outcome requirements and specific challenges - understood once step 2. is adequately defined).
My coach helped me challenge my assumptions and adopt a new way of thinking, then I adopted a new strategy (hit the ball straight) and then I deployed and practiced new tools and techniques. The same principles apply in business… identify and challenge existing assumptions first and foremost. Only then can you generate a meaningful strategy and select the appropriate tools to deliver performance improvement.
When all is said and done, It’s about understanding 'human Factors' (including thinking) as a first step to reduce resistance to change.
Importantly, you can address assumptions at any stage of your performance improvement lifecycle. If you're new to Lean and Six Sigma, part way through a change program or at the end of a long haul looking at little if any difference and wondering why the last 6-10years failed to realise the transformation the original consultants sold, it's not too late. The size of the hills you have to climb may change, but it's definitely not too late.
ADJUNCT – of interest:
Psychological and Physiological Toughness
• Cortical activity – EEG measured in 34 elite golfers during the 3 seconds before a putt (Crews & Landers, 1993)
• Left hemisphere motor cortex activity tended to decrease whereas right hemisphere activity in motor and temporal cortex increased in the last second before the backswing correlated with an increase in putting precision.
• "Golf is a game that is played on a five-inch course - the distance between your ears."
Any such delay has a negative impact on profit, often requiring re-work, motion, over-processing ... all the 'Classic TPS Wastes'... as they occur in processes (the focal point for change) ... controlled by people (systematically ignored at a scientific level - in respect to change).