Nov 17 2010

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Golf Lessons from Lean, Six Sigma and TOC

After taking golf lessons from several coaches, I noticed some very fundamental differences between their approaches. My current coach is very good at giving a single point of advice based on my current swing. Although one day I would like to swing like Ernie Els, right now I have settled on my ugly swing, but I am experiencing notable score improvement after every lesson.

My experience has been quite different from the lessons that my friend took. His coach basically asked him to forget all he had learned and tried to revolutionize his swing in order to take him to the next level. Now he is scared to go to the course because he is stuck with a setback before he can get any better. However, he does believe that he is taking the necessary steps towards his goal of turning professional someday.

It occurred to me that continuous improvement methodologies could be applied to golf in my search for an ever improving handicap. And, like golf, the choice on what approach is best for you is tied to your long and short term goals. Do you want to work on a specific part of your game, say your grip illustrated with (a) below, or your backswing (b) or your stance (c)?

If you think Lean is your best approach, then you should focus on eliminating muda in your swing. Do not try to “push” the club head towards the ball but rather let a synchronized body turn to naturally “pull” the club head in order to achieve a smooth flow of your swing. The game of golf is a process of relentless continuous improvement. We do not generally recommend you to invest too much energy to your tools because dependence on such frequently undermines the development of the correct mindset. If you focus on improving every little piece, your efforts will eventually show up in your score and hence your handicap, which should not be your ends but means to the way of golf.

Six Sigma:
Alternatively, if you think consistency is your best path to improvement, then you should embrace a Six Sigma approach. Focus on reducing variability of your swing. Establish a set of statistical tools to measure the defects of your swing as well as scientific instruments to monitor and track your progress. You need to certify your skills from green to black belts. Through leveraging the right tools with scientific measurement and objective feedback, you will ultimately reduce your swing variability with a Six Sigma approach.

TOC (Theory of Constraints):
If you think that you need a whole new approach on how you learn, then perhaps applying the Theory of Constraints is your best angle. You can maximize the return on your practice time by focusing on identifying and improving the bottleneck of your game. At every stage of your skill development, there is a constraint that determines the throughput of your entire game. At one point it may be the grip or the address or the swing plane or approach shot or putt … but the point is that the bottleneck moves. By identifying the bottleneck and concentrating on it, you will be able to get a notable handicap reduction within the shortest time. While Lean and Six Sigma can get you closer to the “perfect” swing, TOC is taking a holistic look at your game and hence focusing on improving the one point that can quickly improve your score.

Whatever the approach you pick to improve your golf game or to help transform your manufacturing operations, you can benefit from applying technology that automatically records your current swing (or process) to then give you instant feedback on what to improve. In my opinion, there is no better example than golf to illustrate how your actual execution can be deceptive to the best intended plan.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2010/11/golf-lessons-from-lean-six-sigma-and-toc/


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  1. laser vision procedure

    I just signed up to your RSS feed after reading this post! Will you be writing regarding this in future articles?

  2. The Rite

    Thanks for this post, it is great

  3. James Mok

    Thanks. Sounds like a great strategy!


    I love your comparison.
    I will have a 6sigma approach to improve my drives.
    Then TOC.

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