A swing thought is golf-speak for focusing on a single instruction while making your golf swing.
When you add up the multiple suggestions which one’s mind can generate when the ball is addressed, not having this focus means that you may become distracted with thinking about everything which you should be checking, and your resulting shot is more than likely to go astray.
This approach also applies to project management.
While the timelines for decision making are increased, the voices in our heads telling us everything we need to remember can be equally overwhelming. Faced with too many competing and conflicting choices, we might either fall into analysis-paralysis or might shoot from the hip.
There are numerous scenarios where this could happen – negotiating project scope, cost or schedule baselines with one’s client, entering a difficult conversation with a team member or having to deliver some bad news to a sponsor.
Here are a few tips on effective use of swing thoughts.
Keep them simple. The more complex they are the more likely you are to forget them when things get tough. There’s a good reason that mantras are short – with our mind’s tendency to wander, anything more than a few syllables is asking for trouble!
One size doesn’t fit all. Just as a golfer might use a different swing thought for a difficult putt than the one used for a tee shot, you should identify a few different PM guidelines to use depending on the circumstances.
Practice makes perfect. Hours on a driving range or time spent taking a practice swing before a real shot can overcome the novelty of a coaching suggestion. Look for safe or low risk opportunities to practice the use of a particular project management guideline so that you aren’t put on the spot when you really need to use it.
Of course, it is important to have the right swing thoughts – when presented with a water hazard, focusing on “Don’t go in the water” is likely to result in a golfer’s ball entering the watery grave!
The business world rarely gives you a Mulligan, so come up with a few good project management swing thoughts and your project might avoid a bogey!