The Power of Preparation

The power and value of effective preparation is a given in sports.   We’ve all heard the stories of the coaches who work 18-20 hour days during the season and the players who push themselves to physical limits of conditioning the average person can’t comprehend.  Together, they spend hours studying video clips and devising game plan strategies for their best chance at winning the next contest.  

In the NFL, when you add up all the players, coaches, and staff for a single team the total number of man-hours each franchise puts into preparing for a game is well into the thousands of hours every single week.   And even though know an avg NFL game takes a little over 3 hours to play, the actual game clock is only 60 minutes.  But did you realize the actual “playing time”; where a play is in action is under 15 minutes.  In essence, thousands of man-hours are spent every week preparing for less than 15 minutes of work!   That’s a lot of preparation! 

Most businesses do not have the luxury of preparing thousands of man-hours for 15 minutes of work.  But that doesn’t mean the concept of preparing doesn’t apply to your business.  You’ve got to put some effort into looking further out than the next hour, day, or week.  Without planning you end up in a constant reactionary cycle and every day is a new surprise and often they’re not welcome.     

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe” Abraham Lincoln 

Since there wasn’t anyone there with a phone to capture this sage advice from Lincoln and post it on the social channels, I’m not sure anyone knows exactly what he said.   But the point is clear, there is power in preparation.  If you want to increase your chances of success put some time into planning and preparation.

Where to start?  This is often the biggest question when a business has never done any intentional planning before.  They’ve trained themselves and their employees to operate in a reactionary environment day after day. The next phone call, customer complaint, or emergency order always gets the most attention, molding the mindset of the entire company into this whirlwind of being trapped in a cycle of never-ending crisis management.  Everyone’s job is to play the Superhero and they are expected to repeat the process all day long, every day…unfortunately it’s not sustainable.      

Try this approach…

Start small. One of the best ways to get buy-in with the power of preparation is to figure out a way to start small.  Ultimately, the goal with preparation is creating a strategic plan for your entire business.  The challenge with many businesses or segments of a business is they have been working so hard with blinders on for so long, the concept of actually pulling up to the 30,000’ level to a strategic vantage point is hard to comprehend.

Go for “Proof-of-Concept”, it will lead to additional buy-in.  Identify one area of your business where everyone agrees your company is falling short when it comes to preparation; they’re winging it, it’s causing stress, angst, etc.  There is a good chance you may have several areas; don’t worry about that now.  As the owner or leader, your goal will be to select one of the options/issues presented (simpler is better) that you can work with your team on to create a plan or strategy to improve how it is being addressed.  At this “proof of concept” level the change is often just a procedural adjustment or additional training, (in football, adjustments may be half a step!) but it is critical that everyone involved sees the impact of the additional preparation.  

When properly executed, everyone impacted directly or indirectly from this additional preparation should notice the difference.  Just like a football team they should experience more wins!   Ultimately by starting small it created a proven example to segue into bigger picture strategic planning with your team in the future and help them better leverage the power of preparation! 

What about your business?  Is lack of preparation impacting your bottom line?  Are any of your employees feeling unprepared in their roles?  What would your customers say? Have you ever asked them?   As always we value your comments in space below.

Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach