Can the Tiger Woods Effect Improve Performance Management?

September 17, 2010
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The field of sports routinely experiences a dynasty of continuous and consistent championships. Examples have been the New York Yankees in baseball, the Detroit Red Wings in hockey, and Coach John Wooden’s UCLA college basketball team. An individual dominant sport champion is Roger Federer in tennis, but arguably no sport has been recently energized as much as golf with the emergence this past decade of Tiger Woods.

The field of sports routinely experiences a dynasty of continuous and consistent championships. Examples have been the New York Yankees in baseball, the Detroit Red Wings in hockey, and Coach John Wooden’s UCLA college basketball team. An individual dominant sport champion is Roger Federer in tennis, but arguably no sport has been recently energized as much as golf with the emergence this past decade of Tiger Woods.

But have you noticed that seven of the last PGA Majors golf tournaments have been won by first time and often young winners? And young golfers have been contenders. Players in their 20s have won 13 PGA tour events this year. Seven of the top 10 players on the leaderboard at end of the third round of the recent 92nd PGA Championship had yet to win a major championship, and five of those had yet to reach 30. Between 2004 and 2008, 12 of the 20 Majors were won by only three different men: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington. The competition has substantially changed.

Here are some of the PGA youth. Rory McIlroy (21). Martin Kaymer (25). Dustin Johnson (26). Luis Oosthuizen (27), Martin Laird (27), Justin Rose (30). Lucas Glover (30). Graeme McDowell (31). What accounts for their rise? And how might the answer apply to organizational performance improvement? I will answer that, but let’s first see a parallel with golf.

Raising the bar

One could argue that the top placing PGA championship results by others than Tiger Woods are a result of Woods’ distraction with his personal issues. I will argue that it was predictable several years ago that Wood’s dynasty would be challenged when the recent current PGA championship contending youth were teenagers. Why? Because Tiger Woods rose the bar of performance in golf so high that those kids realized that there was little chance that they could excel without lifting their own game up to heights they would not have otherwise imagined.

For example, without Woods playing, an up-and-coming young golfer could be satisfied with getting a few “birdies” (one stroke under par for a hole) and minimizing “bogies” (one or more strokes over par). Any “eagles” would be luck. With Woods, they had to conclude that they had no choice but to hit longer drivers, stroke more accurate fairway shots, and putt better.

Lifting the game of analytics-based performance management

My observation is that application of enterprise performance management methodologies (e.g., strategy maps, balanced scorecards with KPIs, customer profitability and value analysis, forecasting, driver-based budgeting) is advancing. That is, not only are more organizations implementing these methodologies, but more are seamlessly integrating them and imbedding analytics of all flavors (e.g., segmentation and correlation analysis) into each methodology.

One could argue that these methodologies are not new and have been in existence for decades, arguably even before there were computers. So why is there an imperative to implement and integrate all of them now? It is due to forces and pressures that have recently emerged. Here is a partial and incomplete list:

  • Failure to execute (but not formulate) the organization’s strategy.
  • Increased volatility, uncertainty and risk (e.g., economic meltdown, Euro instability).
  • Escalation in accountability for results with consequences.
  • Need for quicker decision analysis and making.
  • Mistrust of the managerial accounting system (flawed cost allocations).
  • A power shift from suppliers to customers / citizens (lack of insights to customer preferences).
  • Dysfunctional supply chain management.
  • A broken budgeting process.
  • Intuition of potential value of unused stored data and text
  • Standardized ERP and CRM business systems (everyone now has one)
  • Complexity of variables replacing “gut feel” (a need for business analytics)
  • Unfulfilled return on investment (ROI) promises from transactional systems (e.g. ERP, CRM)
  • Increased governance and compliance rules and laws
  • Enormous IT computing power 

Organizations cannot maintain a status quo and expect to sustain their existence long-term.

The Tiger Woods Effect

For leading companies, look behind you and a competitor is gaining on you. For companies following leaders, there is an opportunity to gain and surpass them. For government organizations, there is an opportunity to gain more credibility with citizens and taxpayers by providing “more with less.”

Professor Tom Davenport of Babson College and Accenture’s Jeanne Harris, authors of two books, Competing on Analytics and Analytics at Work, propose that the next differentiator for competitive advantage will be business analytics. Their premises are that organizations need much deeper insights for decisions and that change at all levels has accelerated so much that reacting after-the-fact is too late and risky. By embedding business analytics into integrated performance management methodologies, it is now feasible to accomplish what the young PGA golfers are doing – to win.