Continuous Improvement: Being SMART (and Improving Your Golf Game)

By | August 2, 2016 | Marketing Insights

Ever sat there in your office, looking out the window and thought, “How did I not do better on this project? What didn’t we do to win?”

If you’ve been there before, it’s OK. Sad, but I’ve been there 500 times. What I finally figured out is the solution to this problem is hard, but starting is a simple 2 words: Continuous Improvement.

Over the course of this blog, I’m going to walk you through what continuous improvement is, why we stink at it, and how we change it around using SMART goals to improve ourselves and, more importantly, the people around us.

What is Continuous Improvement? (This has nothing to do with Six Sigma)

Continuous improvement is simple:

  • Identify
  • Plan
  • Execute
  • Review

It’s the simple realization that maybe you’re not as good as you thought. That you need to step back, reflect, then formulate a plan with specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals.

Execute your plan. Review your mistakes. Rinse and repeat.

Why should we continually improve?

By identifying areas of improvement, you can become more efficient and reduce wastefulness.

How do I continually Improve using SMART goals?

Identify what it truly means to identify your mistakes.

I suck at golf. It’s a fact. Is it a fact I’m willing to live with?

No.

But the most important question is why do I suck? What about me prevents me from excelling at this game? Is my wrist not loose enough? My stance? Am I just always going to suck? Is it physical? Emotional? Or is it belief?

It’s all of the above, and this line of questioning will lead to improvement.

To improve, you have to identify all the mistakes. The physical mistakes like stance, grip, wrist flick, and body movement prior to release and after. The emotional mistakes like letting my score affect my mood and outlook. The mindset mistakes, such as thinking I’m not going to become better.

If you can accurately identify your mistakes across the playing field, you can begin to formulate SMART goals that lead to improvement.

Plan: SMART is only way to fix your mistakes.

We’ve made it. At this point, you know you stink. More importantly, you know you can get better. The next step is to create SMART goals for yourself.

How do you do that?

At this stage in my stellar golf career, I know I have “a few” physical issues limiting my game. First of all, my body motions prior to my release. Picture this: spinning in a circle 10 times, then deciding you’re going to hit a tiny ball a really long distance. Do you see it? Yeah, it looks even worse in person.

But there it is. The beginning of creating SMART goals. How am I going to improve my stance?

Specific

To create the most specific goals, you should answer these questions:

  1. Who is involved? Me.
  2. What do I want to accomplish? Develop a more consistent golf swing.
  3. Where will I accomplish this goal? Identify a player who drives similar to the way I want to drive. Emulate it.
  4. How long will it take you to complete? I’ll break this down into a 4-week process:
    1. WEEK 1
      1. Film self hitting
      2. Identify main issues with:
        1. Release
        2. Weight displacement
      3. Develop new technique
      4. Hit 1000 balls with new technique
    2. WEEK 2
      1. Film self hitting
      2. Identify continual main issues with:
        1. Release
        2. Weight displacement
      3. Develop new technique
      4. Hit 1000 balls with new technique
    3. WEEK 3
      1. Film self hitting
      2. Identify continual main issues with:
        1. Release
        2. Weight displacement
      3. Develop new technique
      4. Hit 1000 balls with new technique
    4. WEEK 4
      1. Film self hitting
      2. Identify continual main issues with:
        1. Release
        2. Weight displacement
      3. Develop new technique
      4. Hit 1000 balls with new technique
  5. What is holding you back? Identify requirements and constraints.
    1. Time. Work.
  6. Why do you want to do this? Specific reasons, purpose, or benefits of accomplishing the goal.
    1. Sense of accomplishment.

At this point, we have a plan. It’s a start. Not perfect, but it will get better as time progresses.

Now, how are we going to measure all this?

Measurable

Once you have a specific goal, you need to measure it to stay on track. Ask yourself: How will I know when my goal is accomplishable?

  1. I’ll break this down into a 4 week process:
    1. Week 1
      1. Expect to hit 25% with new technique
    2. Week 2
      1. Expect to hit 50% with new technique
    3. Week 3
      1. Expect to hit 60% with new technique
    4. Week 4
      1. Expect to hit 65% with new technique.

By week 5, I should be hitting 65% of my shots exactly where I want to each time I hit. Is that good? No. However, you can’t expect immediate results. This is called “Continuous Improvement.” It will take time.

While having measurable goals helps you stay on track, they also need to be achievable if you ever want to make definitive progress.

Achievable

To achieve your goal, you have to know all the constraints intimately. Without truly knowing them, you won’t accomplish your goal because you won’t know what it takes to get it done.

My constraints:

  1. Lack of time
  2. The effect taking time I don’t have and putting it towards improving my golf drive is going to have on my work and family.
  3. The effect on my body.
  4. The effect on my psyche if I fail.

Ok. You’ve identified all the constraints and their impact on you. But does this goal help you and your team?

If it’s not relevant to all parties, it’s worthless.

Relevant

How will what you’re doing help you and your team grow?

If you’re a marketing consultant and want to improve your golf swing, it needs to help you with your job. So, how will golf help you get ahead?

It can help you meet people.

Meeting people means connections, connections means business, business helps the organization grow, more business makes your boss smile, your boss smiling means your wife/husband smiles. Hooray! Everybody wins!

It’s not that simple, but you’ve at least established why achieving your goals is relevant to your career and personal life.

Time-bound

If you don’t give yourself a finish date, you’re done. Don’t even try. Even if you pick a date and don’t meet it, there is a reason for that. Just go back and complete the whole process over again.

Goal for my golf swing to be at 65%: 4 weeks.

At this point, you’ve made it through SMART. SMART can be tedious and, despite the nifty acronym, it’s not necessarily linear. I suggest starting at the end with relevant and achievable. It will open up the rest of the plan for you.

Execute: Take it and put it to work

You thought it out. Nice work!

Now it’s time to put everything into action. However, this is pretty much where it all falls down. Executing means you have to implement what you did. Every part.

If you can stay true to your plan, you’ll have a good chance of success. But if you deviate from it, you’ll just end up at the beginning again.

Review

If you’re here, you should be asking yourself, “How have the changes I’ve implemented affected myself and the team?” Or in my situation it would be, “How has improving my golf swing helped grow our organization’s business?”

Do you see it? With the goal I decided on, it’s almost impossible to create change. To truly bring business in using golf I have to attend tournaments, take other companies on golfing trips, or go to the driving range with clients.

To get to this realization, I had to start with just one piece of the puzzle, and it wasn’t even a border piece! Now I need to find the rest of the pieces and put it all together.

Using SMART goals to help you and your team continuously improve is one of the best ways to see improvements and win at what you’re doing. Next time you see a big project on the horizon, take what’s above into consideration and ask yourself: Is there a problem with what we’re doing? How can we be SMART to improve that? If you’re proactive, you’ll have a better chance at success.
Now, I’m off to hit some golf balls.