A very long time ago that seems like yesterday, I was a Boy Scout. Given that it was the late 1960′s and early 1970′s, being a part of a quasimilitary organization (or even any organization other than a rock band) was a fairly brave thing to do on my part although I certainly didn’t see it as such at the time. The thing that scouting impresses upon you almost from the outset is the need to BE PREPARED. Yep, in caps. Be prepared in mind, be prepared in body.
I got to thinking about that the other day as I left a meeting. I had spent several hours getting ready – trying to anticipate questions I might be asked, learning about the company and person with whom I was meeting – and the prep work paid off. We had a very productive session, hopefully the first of many more. Rather than spend a lot of time going over preliminaries, we were able to move into the real questions each of us had for the other.
When you drive beyond a town you sometimes come across a sign for a new housing development that’s nothing more than some roads. It’s easy to say “I have no clue what this is, what it will look like, if it’s worth thinking about, etc.” But someone has to build the road first. Sure, it’s all empty lots, there’s not much around. But being prepared is building the road. Equipment and workers can’t get in without a road; nothing much can happen in any project or meeting without prep.
I used to say I didn’t want to walk into any meeting where I hadn’t already answered the questions. What I meant was that I always wanted my team to get ready in advance by thinking through all the possible options, the potential questions, and projected outcomes. That wasn’t about predetermining the outcome. It was about being ready to discuss any and all thinking. More importantly, it was showing respect to the other participants in the room by not needing to get up to speed or to schedule another meeting because you need a lot more time to gather information.
So today’s thought is the scout motto: be prepared. As a teacher you learn that every hour teaching is preceded by an hour or more of prep. It’s been a good lesson to carry forward into business – devote as much time to preparing as to doing. You’ll be surprised how much more actually gets done.