Time to prepare

Time to Prepare

Prepare for getting back on the pitch…

Like everyone else, the coaches of professional sports teams are facing an unprecedented situation – no matches, no team training…well, no nothing really. Their equivalent of the office is shut.  What they have been doing is giving their players diet plans, personal training schedules & focus areas. To support and encourage, regular virtual check-ins & coaching sessions. Getting them ready for being back on the pitch.

Businesses are facing a similar dilemma and many of the usual excuses for not preparing have disappeared almost overnight. What are you doing to prepare to get back on the pitch?

Getting it done before the wasters turn up….

Great preparation is a prerequisite for good performance. With that in mind, when running a training programme,  I endeavour to get to a venue around 7 am for a 9 am start.  Normally, we gain access via helpful security people. On one stand-out occasion on the island of Guernsey, it was a lady who actually worked in the office. She explained to me that her working hours were from 6 am until 1 pm; it suited her family life well. Her parting comment struck me, “I get all of my best work done between 6 & 8.30 before the time-wasters turn-up”. A smart lady I thought and very insightful.

Instantaneous forced home-working means that “the time-wasters” aren’t turning up now. What is being put into that freed time instead?

Busy or effective?

You may have noticed that when you meet people in business, a very common claim is just how busy they are. Early 20th century economists would no doubt be surprised by this; a huge topic of debate then was just how are we going to occupy people after everything gets automated. One comment I have never heard is “I’m not busy, just effective”. There is a big difference between the two.

Modern offices destroy time….

I have a general belief that in modern offices, at least 50% of most peoples’ time is wasted, doing activity not related to their core objectives. Admittedly, this is very unscientific but is borne out of experience & observation. I have asked people to test this on a few occasions by asking them, over a few days, to diligently write down every 10 minutes what they did. I’m normally wrong about 50%; they concluded that it’s usually more. If that’s broadly correct, the closure of many offices and the immediate crash start of home-working provides an opportunity to push for being more effective. Preparation & practise is the key to unlock this.

I don’t have time to prepare….

One of those statements I wish I earned cash for every utterance is some form of “…I don’t have time to prepare.” I’d estimate that this comes up at least once on every programme I’ve ever delivered (…and that’s quite a few).

During the current COVID-19 outbreak, you may have noticed how the Excel Exhibition Centre in London was transformed into the working NHS Nightingale Hospital in 9 days. This was a remarkable feat of civil/military partnership. No time to prepare?

Colonel Boreham, the military leader on the project explained, “We literally got a phone call, arrived here, met up with the NHS about nine days ago, sat around a table and basically did what you always do. We draw a plan up, over a brew……from that you start to build up a plan and create the product. It’s the biggest job I’ve ever done.”

The UK military has insightful principles about preparation involving 6 “P’s” and some raw language (I’ll let you guess) – Proper Planning Prevents P*** Poor Performance. Quite.

Poor preparation drives a lack of effectiveness & performance which then destroys time later trying to put it right. Poor preparation drives the “busy” culture.

Crisis provides an opportunity of time….

Talking to many clients recently, a common phenomenon has occurred.  People are split into three segments.  The execs at the top are busy figuring how to survive & thrive in the current crisis.  Operating teams are upping their game figuring out how to keep the show going.  The bunch of people in the middle, who would normally do things like meet customers, build marketing plans and such-like are stuck at home wondering what to do after the initial crisis has passed.  They essentially have that precious luxury of time back again.  Just like my friend in Guernsey, the time-wasters aren’t turning up.

Now is the time to say yes to preparing for the future

Unlike sports teams, businesses don’t tend to prioritise time to train, practise & prepare for matches. Well, now you do have time to reprioritise; many of the normal things that people say yes to, and are a barrier to great preparation, aren’t there right now. Now is the time to say yes to preparing for the future.

What is your equivalent of the “diet plan, personal training schedule & focus areas”? What skills could your teams be practicing? Where are the big knotty business issues that are still there but people never have the mind space to focus upon? How could you utilise small teams to “virtually” focus on areas of business improvement? What can you do to set up regular practice & coaching sessions?

Businesses tend to focus on Results, rather than “what are the things we should be doing?” and “how well do we do them?” The rapid change in ways of working provides an opportunity to change approach. Prepare your team to get back on the pitch.

Expression for Growth’s
Learning Cloud

If you have run any of our programmes, you’ll have access to our online learning facility – GROW. There’s a wealth of “Make it Stick” exercises and other materials to provide stimulus & practice material.

What else can you do to prepare your team?

  1. Identify the top few long term business issues that rarely get solved. Brief small virtual teams to come up with options & recommendations to resolve.
  2. Ensure each team member has personal focus areas to prepare and practice. Coach them around it.
  3. Set up groups of threes to role play, observe and feedback. 

If you are curious about how you can support your team at this time, check out our website to find out more.  

Please like and share as appropriate if you have found this article useful.   

Gareth Moxom