Most athletes have learned this lesson in one form or another. Yet there are countless stories of how a team or player got too far ahead of themselves. We have all seen the running back starting to run downfield before securing the seemingly easy screen pass. How many times have we heard a coach beat the “One Game at a Time” drum?
The Cleveland Browns
Just this season, the Cleveland Browns with two games to go had a chance to not only make the playoffs but win the division (provided the Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the Colts). It seemed like a real possibility. Next up was the 1-13 Jets. That was going to be an “automatic win” and then they could battle the Steelers for the division crown. Whoops! That automatic win was anything but, as the Browns had been caught looking ahead toward the Steelers as the Jets got their 2nd win of the season. Kudos to the Browns as they were able to refocus, clinch a playoff spot, and advance further in the playoffs.
From a football example to a golf example.
Golf can be perhaps one of the most brutal instructors in this area. I think all golfers have been there….
You are having a decent round. You have been hampered by poor placement and distance off the tee which has forced many of your approach shots to be from awkward lies or longer distances than you would like.
Then it happens. You connect with a solid drive straight down the fairway. “OMG, did I just do that? What a beauty! I knew it, I just have to slow down my backswing, and voila!”
You hit an easy three-quarter wedge onto the green, and two-putt for a tap-in par. “YESSS. This is awesome. I love this. I just need to remember a few things. Alright, next up is a reachable par 5. I might be able to reach it today. If not, I am sure I will be close. A good chance at another par. Wow, a par on this hole and I have a chance at my best round. What a great day.”
The golf ball sounds a huge “WHOOSH” (followed by laughter heard in the background by the rest of the foursome).
Not only did I practically whiff the ball, but I managed to clip it enough to barely trickle into the retention pond in front of the tee box. You know, the one that only requires about ten yards to carry and that even a half-hit worm burner would have at least skipped over.
“Dang, forgot to slow my backswing…”
“…Carded a 10 on the hole. I hate this #@!$%^& sport.”
Now from a business perspective…
Focusing on the current “shot” is helpful not only in sports but in the business world as well as we deal with many distractions. This mindset is quite helpful when developing custom software applications at Tornado. We utilize an Agile Development process for many of our projects. Agile is a methodology where the project or application is broken into several small chunks of development (aka sprints) that are easy to focus on, and we all have a common goal.
When we start a project, we have an idea of the overall goal or deliverable as well as an idea of the basic requirements. However, it is important that we focus on the current iteration. It is quite common that the tasks, scheduled for later iterations, change as the client/end-users start using the software and get a better idea of how they want the software to work for them. If we start to think ahead to the next iteration, we might be tempted to start adding code that will also be required for the pending future tasks.
The rationale is typically that the developer thinks they will speed things up by knocking out a future task while they are in a common section of code. This makes sense if the future tasks NEVER change. However, this action becomes counterintuitive as these tasks do change and in many cases are even eliminated thus rendering the additional work wasteful.
Our best work is achieved when we focus on one shot at a time.