Substance over style

Columns - game plan

June 5, 2019

ADOBE STOCK | Dave Hewison

In the old west, big talkers who didn’t deliver on what they promised were described as “All hat and no cattle.” Simply put: more image than substance.

None of us wants to be thought of in those terms. We all want to deliver the goods as promised. Doing so, while often challenging, is more achievable when you take these important steps:

1. Develop your strategic plan carefully because that’s where you lay out your promises in the form of goals and objectives. Stephen Johnston, the founder of Global Golf Advisors, often explains the importance of strategic planning by saying, “The lack of a strategic plan is not as dangerous as not having fire insurance, but it’s certainly playing with fire.”

The key components of a sound strategic plan are: (a) market analysis; (b) operational review and comparison against performance benchmarks; (c) financial measurement — especially of the sources and uses of funds; and (d) clear-eyed evaluation of governance practices. These four components assure that you have a plan that states clearly your goals and objectives and establishes a broad understanding of expectations.

Remember that an effective strategic plan answers the question: What? The business plan provides the details behind How? When? Who? and Where? The tactical plan outlines the steps that will implement the strategy.

2. Put your strategy to work. Strategy is only as good as the execution that backs it up. Putting strategic goals and objectives into action also requires a plan — one that describes in detail how you and your team will achieve the goals and objectives of the strategic plan.

3. Make sure club leaders and managers understand the plan and how their functional areas are expected to contribute to its success. In 1962, President Kennedy declared, “We will put a man on the Moon in this decade and return him safely to Earth.” Shortly thereafter, while on a tour of the NASA Space Center, the president came upon a janitor mopping the floor. When asked by the President about his job, the janitor responded, “Mr. Kennedy, I am part of the team that is going to put a man on the Moon.” That is plan buy-in and real-life awareness. The lesson: Make believers of your staff.

4. Review your plan’s success. No matter how well-intended a plan might be, careful evaluation and follow-up ensure that the plan remains relevant and purposeful. Another benefit of ongoing evaluation is evolutionary improvement and maximized understanding. Here are three steps to ensure that your plan is working at full capacity:

  • Provide quarterly strategic plan updates. Report your accomplishments and missteps with equal openness. Quarterly updates keep strategy alive in the boardroom and assure members that their board and club management are keeping their promises. Members support trustworthy leadership and trust is built on accountability in your actions.
  • Post a strategic scorecard. After the quarterly update, post the results truthfully and without acclaim. No different that posting your golf score, this is a matter of open accountability for performance. Embrace accountability for your strategic plan’s effectiveness.
  • Produce an annual report. Tell your members what has been accomplished. Align the annual report, as any major corporation would, with the strategic goals and objectives for your business and report on progress toward those goals. Provide members and stakeholders with a succinct summary of the strategic effectiveness of your plan, your board and yourself.

Strategic plans are based on the notion of having a focused plan of action on which all can rely. This step helps to make you and your work more trusted while bringing focus to what makes your facility successful.

One of the more common concerns in many golf courses and clubs is the question of vision or what it really wants to be. A carefully developed strategic plan clearly states who and what you are and establishes a trustworthy foundation for achievements. It shows people that you’re more than just a hat – it’s evidence that you’re bringing the beef.

Henry DeLozier is a principal in the Global Golf Advisors consultancy. He is currently Chairman of the Board of Directors of Audubon International.