Going Under Par on the Production Floor

One of the things I enjoy doing in my spare time is playing disc golf.  For those of you who have never played, disc golf is similar to regular golf except it's played by throwing specially made  discs into a metal basket.  Like golf, a course is normally made up of 18 baskets on a roughly 1/3 scale.  Where a golf hole may be 350 yards, a disc golf hole is about the same number of feet.

It's different from golf in that I've never wrapped a disc around my knee or gone all Tin Cup trying to carry a five- wood 200 yards over a lake.  A round also plays in about a quarter the time and most courses are free.

So, whether you walk, ride, throw, or swing a club, here are five ways that your Sunday golf outing is like managing operations.


1. Know What's in Your Bag.  And Use it the Right Way

Discs, like golf clubs, have attributes that translate to strengths and weaknesses on the course.  Some fly straight and are good for short distances.  Others can be thrown to turn to the right or left.  The key is pulling the right disc in the right situation.

The same is true with people. I have plenty of weaknesses.  But, I have a great team with strengths to balance where I'm deficient.  The key is putting my team in the right situations to win.  Just like I wouldn't use a putting disc to tee off, I can't do everything.  I try to be smart enough to realize it, secure enough to admit it, and trust and rely on my team.  And I'm constantly rewarded as they accomplish more than I ever could.

2.  See the Course from End-to-End

Golfers talk about breaking 100 or 90.  The really good ones think about 80.  Lately, my goal in a round of disc golf, where par is usually 54, is to break 60.  But I can't get to 60 taking each shot in a vacuum.

I'm not a long thrower and there are three or four baskets on my home course that I know I cannot reach in par.  Even if I play those holes perfectly for me, I'll still use 3-4 of the five throws I can go over par and still be under 60.  That's ok if I plan for it.  There are also 3-4 where I have a great shot at a birdie.  Where I get in trouble is if I don't execute on the short holes - or limit the damage on the long ones.

The same is true for daily production.  There are times where volumes, call-offs, system downtime, or other fires may make it impossible to hit goal.  Make up for it by going under par the next day.  The important thing is to prepare for those times and to execute according to plan.

3.  Take Calculated Risks

Even with the best intentions, I still find myself stuck in the weeds or behind a tree.  In disc golf that means throwing a roller or maybe a tomahawk to get around or under an obstacle.  Sometimes it means just laying up and giving myself a clear shot on the next throw.  It's about balancing the potential risk and reward.  If the reward outweighs the risk, I go for it.  If the opposite is true, I just try to get out of trouble and live to fight on the next throw. Getting these decisions correct can be the difference between that 59 and a round that I can't wait to forget.

4.  Learn Your Lessons

In one of the best books I've read on execution, Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling write about the importance of keeping score.  It's the only way I know whether I've reached my goal of getting around the course in 59 shots or less. 

Keeping score also tells me if I'm improving over time.  Two years ago I averaged 63 and broke 60 just 5% of the time - almost all at the end of the year.   Last year I averaged just over 60 and beat that mark once every four rounds. 

The more rounds I play, the further I move along the learning curve.  I know where the good shots land, and where the trouble is.  The same is true on the production floor.  I pay attention to what's working.  Improve what isn't.  And keep score so you know that my team is winning.

5.  Celebrate and Have Fun

It's easy to get caught up in execution.  We know production is never done.  There will be more widgets to make tomorrow morning, more phone calls, and more emails.  But, our daily work shouldn't feel Sisyphean.  Instead of sighing at the bottom of the hill, we should enjoy the view at the end of the day when we're closer to the top.

The best sound in disc golf is the chains rattling on a made putt.  Make sure you hear it - and don't be afraid to do a little fist pump before moving on. Sure, the boulder is eventually going to roll back down the hill.  But for now we've closed out a great day, month, or quarter.

And we're on top of the world.