Your most important function

Columns - Game Plan

November 18, 2016

Our firm stresses the importance of strategic planning. Our view is your club and course will never reach its potential without a plan that clearly states where you want to go and how you intend to get there. But we would be the first to acknowledge that the best strategic plans are doomed if they’re not linked to a disciplined set of actions.

That’s also the view authors Larry Bossidy, the former CEO of Honeywell, and renowned consultant Ram Charan explain in their book “Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done.” In fact, they say execution, long dismissed as a tactical endeavor, is a business leader’s most important function.

The obstacle in linking strategy to action is that leaders have long considered execution the tactical side of business, something they should delegate while they focused on the perceived bigger issues. To that, the authors say bunk.

Here are three straightforward actions that will help club leaders execute their strategic plans:

1 Develop an action plan that complements your strategy

A strategic plan describes the primary goals and objectives for the club. Hopefully, the plan is supported with thorough market research and a genuine understanding of the club’s needs and its members’ wants. The plan should acknowledge leaders’ primary responsibilities: to protect the assets of the corporation, ensure and sustain effective guidance, and manage the financial capabilities of the club responsibly.

But the best strategy gathers dust if not accompanied by a detailed action plan that outlines how the strategy will be implemented. Let’s say one element of the strategic plan is to improve the quality of greens to enhance the image of the club, which would pave the way for an increase in fees and dues. How is that going to happen? Not simply by writing it into the strategic plan, that’s for sure. What are the resources needed? What’s the budget? What’s the timing for the project? How will success be measured?

2 Communicate the action plan

Members want transparency. They want to know what is happening at and with their club. Members want the board and leaders to demonstrate an awareness of the expectations of their broad constituency. Communications should be:

Frequent. It’s hard to overcommunicate. Town halls and open-member sessions can be held quarterly so members have a chance to see, hear and question their leaders. Letters, emails, texts and social media platforms should all have a place in your communications action plan. Use each to take advantage of what they do best. If you’re unsure how members and customers prefer to hear from you – and on what schedule – ask them as part of a simple survey.

Easily accessed. Most clubs are a swirl of rumors, partial stories and misdirected applications of information. Create one location where members can obtain accurate information. This can be a virtual destination with clear-cut structure and rules of engagement.

Personal. Calling trees that assign specific board members and leaders to specific segments and small groups of members give your communications a personal touch. A one-on-one conversation is also still the best way to understand what a person is really trying to communicate. This approach is gathering new strength in clubs where many members know the effectiveness of small-group communications that keep youth sports and after-school activities running efficiently.

Stay on message. During an election year, this admonition is repeated repeatedly. Candidates have what’s known as their “stump” speech, and they give it time after time, customizing it slightly for the occasion and audience. Similarly, club leaders are most effective when they communicate goals, objectives and key messages in consistent language.

Golf course superintendents are often called upon to be more communicative. Often, superintendents divulge only what they must and, as a result, information flow is incomplete, sporadic and pressured.

The top superintendents plan their communications as carefully as their agronomics. They know what and when they need to communicate important issues. They deliver clear and succinct messages that are timely and authentic. A thorough agronomic plan must include a section dedicated to active communications.

Henry DeLozier is a principal in the Global Golf Advisors consultancy. DeLozier joined Global Golf Advisors in 2008 after nine years as the vice president of golf for Pulte Homes. He is a past president of the National Golf Course Owners Association’s board of directors and serves on the PGA of America’s Employers Advisory Council.