As a consultant I am frequently asked to help someone become more productive or more innovative. What's odd about many of these conversations is that while people recognize the need to change or become better at a specific process or task, they rarely want to engage in any preparation. It's as if you can simply show up and transform or convert individuals, teams or processes without any advance effort.
A case in point: recently we were asked to help facilitate a brainstorm with a client who was trying to create ideas for new products. The team decided that an outside facilitator would be helpful and contacted us. I was happy to describe our approach and methodology, which calls for a significant amount of planning and pre-work.
The gentleman I was speaking with quickly corrected me - they didn't see any value in the prep work, and no one would do the work anyway. Would we come in and conduct the session without any advance planning, preparation or prework? I quickly answered "no" and we agreed to end the conversation there. Think about the likely outcomes when you fail to prepare for an event, a meeting or a change in the way you do business:
- People don't understand the tasks assigned to them
- They don't appreciate the importance of the meeting or event
- They don't arrive with the same perspectives
- They don't understand all of the research or work that has been done before
- They don't understand the expected outcomes
- There's not a clear framing of what they are supposed to do
This is why so many meetings are considered failures, and why so many "big" corporate events are seen as failures as well. Too many people want to rush right through the planning and preparation to get to the activity, since all that planning and prep is seen as overhead or as not adding any value. However, when you have all the people in place and no one has a clear understanding of what is supposed to happen, and you send half the meeting time trying to get everyone to the point where they would have been if the prep had been done effectively, is that effective?
In doing some quick research, university professors expect to spend 2 hours outside of class for every one hour in class for a standard course of study, and as much as 4 hours outside of class for every hour in class for unique programs. This is just one example of the effort involved to prepare and deliver a valuable meeting experience. Would you argue that professors should just "wing it" and come to the meeting with no prep? Note that this does not even count on the fact that the attendees (in this case students) should prepare for the class at all. Of course they should.
For some reason many of us are wired to expect to commit to and pay for the conduct of an event, a program or a task, but we are genetically unwilling and unable to pay for the preparation time that will make the event a success, even in light of information that describes how important good preparation is for success for most of these events and activities. The Ready, Fire, Aim mentality must be a dominant gene.