First tee jitters—all golfers, regardless of age or experience, have them. Success comes from having a strategy, and professionals do this by playing the hole backwards. They start with the hole location, decide how best to attack it, and formulate a plan to do so. This is exactly how companies should approach Corporate Performance Management (CPM) issues as well—by working backwards. This is just one of the fundamental concepts CPM can learn from golf. Let’s discuss some others while playing a round.

Golf Attire: It’s Colorful and Flashy, But Does It Make You Better?
Some of today’s golf attire can be over-the-top outrageous. Crazy patterns and designs coupled with fluorescent colors can make anyone standout and exude confidence. But do outfits make a person a better golfer? Probably not. If so, everyone would wear them, right?

A lot of CPM tools entice us with bells and whistles, offer functionality that simply isn’t needed, and advertise themselves as best-in-class. In my experience, usability is more important than capabilities. The motto MorganFranklin lives by is “right tool, right job.” That’s our focus when helping you choose what makes sense for your company. All platforms can be good—it’s the platform’s design that makes it work for your company.

The Range: Warm Up or Pay the Price
In Golf My Own Damn Way, John Daly points out that to take strokes off your game you must warm up before the round. If you don’t, you’ll spend the first three holes warming up and your score will reflect that. The same is true for CPM. If you don’t warm up your new CPM through extensive testing and stakeholder involvement, your approval score (in terms of user satisfaction) will show it. The more testing you conduct, the better off you will be. If you believe in Agile/lean development, the quicker you “soft” launch your product to a limited test group, the more feedback and time you have to tweak any unforeseen issues.

The Tee Shot: Don’t Just Hit It Long and Straight
“Hit it long and straight” is the tee box motto of most golfers. Anywhere in the fairway is fine. After all, many fairways are wide, forgiving, and offer substantial room for error. But to score well, this attitude is not good enough. Professional golfers target specific areas of the fairway, whether for distance or approach angle on the next shot, usually a combination of the two. They never lose sight of the main goal, which is to put the ball in the hole in the most efficient manner while minimizing risk.

Companies should adopt the same approach with regards to CPM. Don’t jump in too quickly without knowing what you really need and want. Reporting requirements should drive design of the chart of accounts (COA). The COA design should be evident in the underlying accounting system, and the accounting system should be flexible with the ability to change as your company does. This focus and planning will ultimately lead to success. Otherwise, you’ll waste money and time chasing temporary fixes that will need to be addressed sooner or later.

Bad Shot: Don’t Let Your Head Get in the Way
Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect by Bob Rotella is one of the best-selling instruction books of all time. Unlike the books that preceded it, Rotella’s ignores the physical fundamentals of a golf swing. Instead, he focuses on the game’s mental aspect, which causes players as much angst as the swing itself. Rotella’s message is simple—golf is not a game of perfect, mistakes will happen, and the golfer who can accept this fact will be better prepared and likely perform better.

How does this apply to CPM? I recommend not trying to build a perfect system all at once. Keep it simple, and stick to fundamentals. The more you over-engineer your platform versus building out a basic working model, the more complex it becomes, adding to both user frustration and poor system performance and reliability.

Chip Shots and Bunker Play: Close Is Not Good Enough
Quite often, approach shots miss the green. That’s an inevitable part of the game. But how golfers deal with their misses can make or break a round. Most amateurs are thrilled to get it “up and down,” meaning a chip shot followed by a putt into the hole. The same holds true for a bunker shot—just get it on the green and be happy. Professionals do not think this way. Instead, they aim for the hole with their chip or bunker shot. Their focus on the shot, attention to detail, and execution of the swing are what set them apart.

Companies should do the same. The focus should be on what is needed from CPM in order to make informed, meaningful, up-to-the minute business decisions. Strategy and execution plans should be direct outcomes of these decisions. If your CPM system cannot do this it is not good enough. Attention to detail is what makes all of this successful.

Putting: Attention to Detail and Commitment Are a Must
Putting is easy, right? There is no side spin, no water hazard, no bunkers, no out-of-bounds, no tall grass, etc. The hazards that exist on other golf shots just are not there when putting. This attitude is why putting is often the least practiced part of a recreational golfer’s game. A five-foot putt counts the same as a 300-yard drive. Putting is an art form, where speed and aim must sync up. The golfer must commit unconditionally to both with confidence to increase the chances of making the putt.

Part of the CPM process is to develop an annual budget against which to compare actual results. The process often begins with high-level guidance resulting in a “directionally correct” version. (Think 300-yard drive.) Management then provides feedback, and another version is completed, this time closer to the final target. (Think approach shot from 150 yards.) The final version will be the one most scrutinized, where every assumption is reviewed and validated before management signs off and takes ownership of the budget. (Think putt.) It’s that commitment to the process and attention to detail that help create the achievable target goals for your company.

Caddies: Trusted Partners and Not Just Bag Toters
If you don’t think caddies are important, I suggest you play a round of golf at Harbour Town in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Harbour Town is not a long course, but each shot demands precision, and the caddies are the only ones who know where to hit. For example, your approach shot might be blocked by overhanging trees if you end up on the wrong side of the fairway off the tee. Similarly, if you miss a green long, your ball might be in the water not visible from the fairway. And then there is putting. Utmost trust in the caddies will save you many, many strokes. After all, this is their job and they are good at it. The moral is that you do not have to know everything yourself when you can ask for help.

There are many firms in the marketplace today that offer or specialize in CPM. They can partner with you to assess, design, test, and implement a system custom suited to your needs. They will work with you and guide you through the process to ensure all of your needs are met and you are not overwhelmed. Picking the right partner is important but after you do, trust them and allow them to do their job – you are more likely to succeed as a team.

The 19th Hole: Celebrate Successes and Ignore Failures?
The 19th hole is where the party commences after a round is complete. All golfers like to reflect on the just-finished round and boast about the great shots they hit. Successes are glorified, whereas failures are forgotten. But they shouldn’t be. Golfers should analyze each failure, figure out what went wrong, and learn from those mistakes.

CPM will provide unedited feedback on performance about your company. It will report the bad with the good, and this tends to be what grabs management’s attention. When you know where your problems lie, you can fix them. If today’s good is tomorrow’s better, and the bad gets fixed, your company is on the right track to success.