Many project managers play golf as a recreational activity, but did you know that there are some project management lessons to be learned from the “gentleman’s game”?
1. There are fourteen different clubs in a bag – all have their purpose. One-Club Golf competitions aside, most golfers learn the value of picking the right club for each shot. The same is true for projects – having a cross-functional team of resources is a good way to avoid tunnel-vision, to be versatile and to solve the trickiest issues.
2. Consistency is critical – anyone can hit a good shot once, but getting low scores is about being consistent from tee to green. Even the most chaotic person can successfully manage a project on occasion, but project managers that follow a consistent procedural “swing routine” will experience a higher percentage of successful projects.
3. Learn to balance risk against reward – pulling out your driver to cut across a hazard on a dogleg might be needed on the PGA tour, but an average golfer may be better served by playing the hole conservatively. Neither an ultra-conservative nor an uber-aggressive approach to planning and managing projects works – projects possess uncertainty so risk is ever present, but project managers need to learn how to manage risks appropriately to optimize their projects.
4. Never stop learning – even the top ranked natural golfers use swing coaches and will switch coaches to “shake up” their games. The older we get, the easier it is to believe that there is nothing new to be learned in our profession – improving soft skills is a life-long pursuit, and project management practices and theory are constantly evolving so make sure to allocate time for professional development.
5. Don’t let a bad shot or hole spoil your round. Projects have good days and bad days and sometimes it seems that issues are insurmountable. A positive attitude is a key attribute for a project manager – no one expects you to have a smile permanently glued on your face, but it helps neither the project nor your team if you are visibly and chronically weighed down by the burden of issues and risks.
Keeping these simple “swing thoughts” in mind will make you a scratch project manager in time!