Let’s tee off

- February 2020

By Brendan Egan, Senior Manager at Parbery Consulting

I play golf. I know what you’re thinking. I’m one of those people. I’m also an accountant. Both are pursuits that you need to choose your crowd carefully before you go declaring your affiliation. You want a sympathetic crowd, someone that understands.

I play golf for a variety of reasons. I started because my grandfather played and I was attracted to the game through him. It’s been a lifelong vocation, which is handy as it’s a game that can be played at any age by pretty much anyone. The greatest motivations I have for playing now are varied but include an appreciation of golf architecture (a growing interest I could really bore you with), competing with friends and family and an ongoing search for personal development.

Personal development? The nature of the game is that you can simultaneously compete against your opponent, the course, the conditions, and yourself. One of the unique features of the game is that, depending on your ability, you get somewhere between 70 and 100 (or more) individual opportunities to hit a stationary ball per round, each time from a different environmental position and with a different objective.

Golfers can spend an excessive amount of time trying to perfect their game but every one of those unique opportunities requires a sequence of simple steps. You collate the available information and consider the options (the location of the ball, the ground it is on, the weather, where the target is); you determine a plan (the club to use, the shot shape, the intended target); you execute the plan (play the stroke); you assess the result (did the ball go where it was intended?).

Sound familiar?

The principles that apply to each and every golf stroke are basic fundamentals in the process of strategic planning encountered in any organisation. Whether you are on a Board, a Committee, or a member of the senior team in an organisation, the strategic planning process will be critical to achieving your objectives.

What are the crucial components to a strategic planning process? Let’s use the Board as our example. The Board will digest the available information and take advice from management. From there they will consider the available options to the organisation, the risks and opportunities and possible outcomes. Given the information available and the options, the Board will make decisions that determine the organisation’s strategic direction. Finally, the Board will look to receive regular reports of achievement against these strategic objectives.

Making a poor assessment, failing to have a clear plan (indecision) are death in golf and will result in a poor shot. The same applies in a business context. Making clear, unequivocal decisions based on the careful assessment of the available information is the key to clear strategic direction for a business.

So now I have another reason to play golf, as do you. I’m rehearsing my strategic planning process time and again to make me a better contributor in the organisations I’m involved with. Time to go work on my process.