Archives for posts with tag: Preparation

I have found, perhaps more by luck than judgement, hence my anecdotal phrasing of this sentence, that when you do the prep, things tend to go fine. When you don’t, they don’t.

When you wing a call or a meeting, choosing not to think about the questions you might get, or the outcomes you want from an encounter, it can often unravel and put you behind where you started. When you think about your call or meeting, plan for it, do the work required, try and anticipate the questions, have answers for them, and have an outcome in mind, it tends to go well.

Things are rarely as bad or difficult as you thought they’d be before you started the prep.

I think this has to do with the self-fulfilling prophecy, and peace of mind. The self-fulfilling prophecy, as I’ve talked about here, here and here, dictates that something will probably turn out the way you expected it to, and that by extension you should go into any situation with a positive outcome in mind. When you’ve done the prep, you’re comfortable with the impending call or meeting. You have peace of mind, which relaxes you and sets you up much better to shape the meeting to how you want it to go.

In a situation that’s much more complex than a call or meeting, like war, or business, our strike rate is nothing like as high. There are too many more variables, with too many more possible outcomes. All plans turn to dust in the heat of battle, inevitably. The prep, though, and the act of prepping, is still a very important and worthwhile exercise.

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We all know that life is a terribly slender thread and things like a mis-timed jay-walk can change a life irrevocably.

So it is with business I think. It’s not as final but in a split-second it can turn things on their head for quite a while.

I was at a sales kick-off conference more than 10 years ago, and there were about 15 to 20 of us around a U-shaped arrangement of desks, with our laptops already in use, stealing a few moments before the sessions – and in between them no doubt – to get some day-to-day business done before knuckling down to the meeting.

The walkway between the delegates and the wall was a sea of cables. Walking back to my seat, I tripped on a power cable that was curving up from the floor, yanking off the laptop in the process. The laptop belonged to to a rep, a lady who was a super person and whom I respected a lot. The laptop landed on the floor edge-first. Inevitably it broke. The screen went completely blank.

If you’ve been in this situation you’ll know that if you can’t see what’s on screen, you can’t save your work, power down, restart, interrogate the machine, anything. So imagine you’re this person. You’ve a mountain of things to do, let alone the time you’re giving up for the SKO. You’re a thousand miles from home, with a pre-smartphone-era phone.

I was understandably extremely apologetic and the lady in question was obviously pretty distraught but took it in good spirit as the genuine accident that it was. But in the blink of an eye, I’d turned her day from a good one, to an awful few days.

So how can you legislate for these sudden bumps in the road? It’s the standard answer: you plan for them as far as is economical for you to do, and you hope for the best. The hotel venue could have been configured so that sockets, cables and plugs ran from the centre of the room or from under the tables. Everyone could, I suppose, carry 2 laptops around with them, both synched, which is a touch overkill for an eventuality that might occur once in your lifetime. Or you simply hope that the split-second slip-up won’t get you and simply get on with it if it does.

 

A well organised, well prepared team will always beat a disorganised, unprepared team with a few stellar players. We’ve all seen it, from amateur teams all the way through to the elite professional levels. The world-beating teams are there because of their painstaking approach to preparation, strategy and execution, and having stellar players doesn’t hurt.

I was recently watching the BBC annual sports love-in called Sports Personality of the Year. It’s not really about personality as such, although you do get the odd winner with personality, like cyclist Bradley Wiggins a few years ago. Last year’s winner was tennis player Andy Murray, who freely admits he’s a touch short-changed on the charisma front and who gets tagged a lot with the d-words: dogged, dour, determined.

Except that Andy Murray beat out the other 11 finalists – who were all world champions and world number ones – to take the crown.  Andy is at the time of writing world number 2 but won no grand slams or the end of year bash last year. He won it principally because Great Britain won the Davis Cup for the first time in about a thousand years. As a side note, thank goodness it’s a Britain thing, because England would be in the bottom tier if the 3 nations competed separately.

The Great Britain team also won the team award as well.

A good team trumps good individuals. It’s the same in business, and especially in sales and marketing. All the more reason for us to stay focused on preparation, strategy and execution.

When I’m preparing to write anything significant, I spend a disproportionately large amount of time deciding on the outline for it. Often I will then write the introduction, and then the conclusion, before turning to the body of the document. I find that if I don’t spend a good amount of time on the planning, and I cut corners, then it takes me correspondingly longer to finish the document. This is because I haven’t thought it through properly and it doesn’t have the right structure or flow. It doesn’t hang together nor is it convincing.

It’s all in the preparation. Cooking, doing an important presentation or speech, tackling an essay at school, there’s a feeling of release – or is it relief – when you’ve done the prep, or built the outline. It feels like half the battle and you know you’re on solid ground from hereon in. The rest follows more easily, hanging comfortably on the framework of a solid beginning, middle and end.

Does this mean I’m denigrating the benefits or merits of spontaneity? Not really. There’s so much to be said for going with the flow and sometimes the best of times come from spur-of-the-moment behaviour. It all depends on the situation :-).