What Business Can Learn From Golf Instruction

How many times have you stopped to ask yourself how a company like Apple can consistently perform at peak levels? Yes, technology, innovation and creativity have something to do with it, but I think one of the things that is often overlooked is that Apple starts with the end in mind.  Rather than have its tech people come up with “cool stuff,” Apple starts with the customer and then turns it over to the tech people to do “cool stuff” to excite the customer.

It struck me like lightning last month while I was attending the Paul Wilson Golf School in Las Vegas.

By the looks of me, you would never know that I am somewhat of a golf training junkie. My friends derisively call me “Dr. Golf,” I guess because I am constantly trying to cure a slice, hook or a thousand other miss-hits. As my friend Crook says, “He’s never hit a shot that he liked.” Even though I have attended four golf schools over the years, my game does not show evidence of learning anything from them until now.  Because of my latest instructor Paul’s approach, I am a changed golfer who is already seeing positive results, and am confident that I will get even better.

What makes his approach unique is that Paul starts his training with the end in mind (i.e. reverse engineering). The first thing you learn is to hold the finish of the golf swing. His teaching philosophy is that the golfer will not be able to finish correctly if he or she doesn’t execute the correct behaviors to get there. Therefore, you learn how you are supposed to look when you finish the swing and only then do you work backwards to determine the behaviors that will get you into that position. Amazingly, within minutes I was hitting shots better, straighter and longer than I ever have.

My interest in Paul’s teaching technique was heightened by the fact that it mimics the reverse behavioral engineering (RBE) model that we use with our clients to help their businesses increase efficiency and effectiveness in production, quality, safety and sales.  In RBE the business result is identified first, then the behaviors necessary to attain the results are identified and tested against the result until it is accomplished. When you apply a reverse engineering approach, the behaviors that are not necessary to produce the result are identified early and eliminated from the process. To use one of Paul’s examples, he said, “Don’t worry about the backswing.  If the backswing mattered, Jim Furyk would never have made it to the pros.”

Paul mentioned that it is unfortunate that many golfers, probably millions, have worked with a coach, sometimes for years, and show little improvement in their game. Organizations that don’t employ a reverse behavioral engineering approach can probably say the same. Focusing on results without linking to the valuable behaviors or focusing on behaviors as valuable in and of themselves works only when your competition is doing the same thing, which is often.  However, when you continuously correlate behaviors with results, which few companies do, increases in business outcomes are often staggering.

In golf as in business, it is all about behavior. The only questions in business as in golf are:  what behaviors do you want and what is the most efficient and effective way to acquire them? Although people often resist changing old habits, when the new ones can show rapid results, resistance evaporates. Paul calls his training Swing Machine Golf because it is simple, easy to learn, reliable, repeatable and quick to show results.  Paul may not have all the answers, but he is leading the pack by a wide margin.

The next time you are planning an initiative to improve some aspect of your business, remember to start, as Paul does, with the end in mind.

**While this was by far the best golf instruction I have ever received, I am in no way affiliated with this program. The reinforcement I received has me singing his praises and sharing how even someone who has studied the science of behavior for the past 40 years can still learn a thing or two. For more on Paul, go to paulwilsongolf.com.