Golf and CSV

Golf and CSV

Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from the standard, business-focused content format and instead look at things relative to hobbies one might enjoy outside of work.  As a man of few hobbies, this leaves my options fairly limited for creating some type of analogous repartees for our dear readers to partake in, but one thing I do love to do in my off-hours is getting out on the golf course and spending some time embarrassing myself.

Since we’ve started doing these blogs, I’ve been looking for various topics to cover and I couldn’t help but think of a few parallels that we can find on the golf course that translate to Computer Systems Validation, or regulated software quality in general, so I figured why not type something up and share it here. 

As any golfer knows, it’s a game of precision, consistency, course IQ and patience.  This is not dissimilar to taking an approach to CSV (look, I even listed an IQ).  A lot needs to come together to put a respectable round together, and just a few things coming unhinged or not being approached correctly can really bloat a scorecard.   

One bad club selection, one wayward drive out of bounds, one hero shot instead of a safe shot, and the triple and quadruple bogies can really start to add up.  But how does this equate to CSV?  Let me explain. 

Let’s pretend that I am a golf instructor.  On this particular day, I will be taking two students out for an on-course lesson where I’ll watch them get around a few holes to figure out where they need improvements.  Those improvements could come in the form of fundamentals, short game work, decision making, or anything that will start helping them shave shots off their rounds. 

Player 1 shows up and the first thing that is very noticeable is the near antique age of all his equipment. From the heavy leather bag, to the persimmon driver and woods, to the nearly butter knife thin irons that are in about as good of condition as an old railroad spike, it’s clear that about the only investment this player has made in equipment is a dust rag that he used to clean the clubs off after he dug them out of his grandfather’s garage. 

Next, up walks player 2.  Clearly the opposite end of the spectrum here, this golfer comes attired in all-new gear and a brand new bag filled with all the latest equipment that I’m sure was selected based on gold medal awards in the latest issue of Golf Digest.  He looks the part of what might as well be a pro walking out of his sponsor’s tour bus to go tee off at the Masters. 

As a professional in the world of golf (in this hypothetical scenario), I don't need to see much to know exactly what would help each of these two players. Coupled with my first impressions, a few swings on the driving range is really all I need to see to know what's going to go wrong out on the course.

Player 1 has decent form, good fundamentals, and a decent head on his shoulders which is made clear by his deliberate warm-up and driving range routine, but he lacks the equipment to aid in or enhance the process and thought he puts into his game.

Player 2 has all the best equipment but clearly spends more time watching YouTube equipment reviews and trying out clubs than he does actually spending time on the driving range or thinking out appropriate shots on certain types of holes. He is a victim to the marketing trap that makes him believe that equipment alone will grant him the magic power to shape shots like a pro and give him the power and distance to muscle through a course.

What does this translate to for each player as we start making our way around the course? 

Player 1 plays a moderate and conservative round, making few mistakes. However, even small mistakes are coming at a heavy price with zero aid from his equipment. A slight miss-hit with an iron is massively punished with zero forgiveness offered even relative to blades of the modern era. An off-center hit with that persimmon wood driver goes tearing offline and travels little distance while doing so.

Heck, even good strikes are punished compared to what could be achieved with more modern technology.  A striped drive is still leaving him 30 yards short of where a more recent driver would have placed him on the fairway.  That makes the difference of having to take a 4 or 5 iron into the green instead of being able to pull out an 8 or a 9 iron.   

To a lesser extent yet still a factor, carrying around that heavy leather golf bag is going to be more tiring over the course of a round than a modern era, lightweight material bag.  Even that fatigue will have an effect on swings. 

Now I know what you’re thinking, and you’re partially right.  Equipment isn’t everything and it won’t make you a scratch golfer.  That said, it definitely can help when coupled with a good base of skill and course IQ. Especially if you are using clubs that are decades old that aren't fitted for you.

Longer drives are achievable which in turn allow for shorter irons into greens on second and third shots.  Those shorter irons into greens will yield a higher percentage of shots with closer proximity to the hole. More forgiveness on slight mishits all the way through the bag will not be as drastically punishing as a slight miss-hit off a persimmon fairway wood, for example.  All these enhancements coupled with his already decent form and ability will help this player turn in a lower scorecard at the end of a round. 

Player 2, on the other hand, buys too much into what equipment can actually offer.  Yes, new tech can help, but it still has to be utilized in a controlled way.  Larger centers of gravities can assist with off-center hits.  Modern tech in irons enables more forgiveness and consistent distance delivery, even with blades.  However, all that can easily be overridden by poor swings, bad contact or bad decisions. 

As player 2 tees off on a 350 yard par 4 with a hard dogleg left about halfway through the fairway, he decides to take his newly fitted driver with the club head set to a draw bias and tries to sling a power draw around that dog leg, but that’s a high risk shot and the club won’t magically shape that ball from right to left.   

What ends up happening is he takes a massive swing, hits his usual miss of a big fade and we watch the ball sail the opposite direction of the dogleg and into the woods out to the right.  All for what?  The chance to have a 50-yard wedge in (which this player doesn’t have the finesse to play effectively anyway)? 

The smarter play here is just to take something like a 5 wood or even a hybrid and just pat a shot down the middle of the fairway near the apex of the dogleg, leaving something like 140-150 yards in.  It’s boring and he won’t get to play the hero shot, but he also won’t be hacking out of the woods racking up strokes, either. 

These types of shots and big misses are common with player 2.  Just because you have a new 3 wood doesn’t mean you should go for that par 5 in two when you’re 257 yards out with water surrounding the green.  Your swing will override whatever that shiny new club offers every time. 

So what’s the ideal situation here?  Ideally, we could blend these two players who sit on both sides of the spectrum. Somewhere in the middle, we would find a solid player with decent fundamentals and good golf IQ that is also putting modern, fitted tools at their fingertips to aid in and maximize their execution and results.

This is where we start to draw some parallels to CSV and regulated software quality. 

A blending of good process enhanced by the right tools is what teams working in a regulated environment should be striving for. Too often we see teams married to outdated, document-based processes because “they work”.   

Sound like someone we just talked about?  Player 1, I’m looking at you and your Ben Hogan era clubs.   

Sure, the lack of automation, governance or tools to aid in compliance and validation activities can force that stringent processes be well thought out, defined and implemented, but without the assistance of modern technologies, a small error or oversight can lead to disastrous results and gaps in compliance. Things that could easily have been avoided by leveraging modern tools to aid in workflow and compliance governance.

Then on the other side, we see teams with all the latest technologies and tools, but they are not using them appropriately.  If proper processes are not put in place in conjunction with those tools, then it doesn’t matter how powerful the technology is.  It’s not going to allow an organization to power through their regulatory requirements.   

Time for the finger to point at you this time, player 2. 

After all, tools are only as good as the processes that govern them, and sufficient thought around process definition needs to be mapped out. Governance should then be applied to assure process adherence.

Without a good process coupled with workflow controls, orgs are at risk of employees going for that infamous Bubba Watson hero shot to the green where he decided to sling the high draw out of the pine straw, through and around the trees.

Okay, maybe that’s a bad example since Bubba managed to pull off the shot and win The Masters that year, but still!  More often than not that’s just going to end with bad contact and the ball bouncing off a tree only to come hurtling back right into the bridge of your nose (insert FDA infraction consequences here). 

We have spent years working with organizations on both sides of the spectrum to hone their approach to get somewhere in the middle of these two places. Finding that sweet spot of good practice and processes coupled with the right tech enables achieving a much more streamlined, risk reduced and cost-effective method of satisfying regulatory requirements while still appeasing business goals and objectives.

In short, go out and do a club fitting to get set up with the right equipment. Leverage a coach and put in smart, applied practice to get that swing in order.  Think about the shot you are going to play off the tee that puts you in a safe, playable position for your second shot in.  Stay away from those hero shots that are going to skew much more on the side of a triple or quadruple-bogey than they will a birdie.

Balance your processes and practices with the right investments in technology and you’ll have a much easier path to the bottom of that cup. 

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