Preparation: The Intersection of Insight & Alignment
How ready is your company for a catastrophe? The answer is probably, “It depends.”
What does ‘ready’ mean?
What type of catastrophe is it?
When will it happen?
Where will it happen?
How long will it last?
How large is its potential scope?
Is it local, national, global?
How much control does the company have to mitigate impacts?
How long before the company can return to BAU?
What Plan B (C, D, etc) does the company have in place?
Does the leadership team know how to lead during uncertainty?
Does the leadership team know how to communicate during uncertainty?
If you knew what the catastrophe was going to be and had time to prepare, you’d likely have confidence that the company could navigate it. If this were the case though would it really be considered a catastrophe? I’ve always thought of those as unexpected events, not necessarily as events you could thoroughly prepare for? Regardless, planning for the known is easier than planning for the unknown. Of course, we hope that readiness plans for the known can also mitigate the unknown.
In my experience, those companies that do a good job preparing for planned business activities are often better at being ready to address unknown events. Whether it’s a product release, a change in leadership, an acquisition or the implementation of a new internal system, preparation is key. There are myriad things that can go wrong in any of those examples no matter how many times they’ve been done before. The organization’s preparedness will determine the efficiency of the path to success.
What is the Preparation Intersection?
Preparation is the intersection of insight and alignment (see Intersection 19 image below). Insight without alignment is unorganized intelligence. Alignment without insight is the Lemming Effect.
Scope, schedule, budget, resources. These are the key components to every project plan ever constructed. There are people who specialize at using these inputs to build detailed approaches for any type of project. Their expertise is supported and enhanced by the continual innovation of software tools that make planning easier and quicker.
The term ‘basic blocking and tackling’ is used frequently when it come to the topic of planning. Personally, I think the phrase may create an incorrect perception that the process of planning is basic or easy. Typically, it’s neither one of those. The issue though may be the use of the word ‘plan’. A plan seems like a finite, often static, deliverable that is supposed to be the end-all-be-all, when in fact it rarely is.
I’ve found the word ‘preparation’ to be a truer representation of what happens when efforts are to be undertaken in an organization. Preparation implies more than just a plan. Importantly, it indicates an insightfulness as to the ‘why’ behind the plan and not just the how, when and where. Insight feeds preparation with lessons learned, innovations and knowledge of better methods, tools or processes. Insight is what elevates a plan to real preparedness.
Intersection 19: Preparation = Insight + Alignment
Preparation is complete only when alignment exists between stakeholders. This doesn’t mean they agree on every point, rather that they understand the roles and what needs to be accomplished. Attaining alignment is challenging, which is why communication is also critical.
Alignment is more complex than a simple acknowledgement that the project will happen. Ideally, the project approach is all-inclusive and componentized such that alignment can be explicitly determined for each key area. This includes, but is not limited to:
Scope, schedule, budget, resources (the basic building blocks)
Issue / risk escalation paths
Contingencies for the basic building blocks
Success factors (partial and full)
Executive sponsorship and accountability
Communication, messaging and audience management
Alignment takes time, but it’s worth the investment because misalignment can result in unintentional, costly and / or delayed outcomes. Better to spend the additional time and effort up front to get aligned and prepared, than to expend even more time and effort afterwards dealing with the mess of uncertainty and inefficiency.
What Can Leaders Do?
There’s no magic indicator for the completion of preparedness. Rather, preparation is an exercise in proactive planning and reactive optimization, with the objective being efficient comprehensiveness.
Given the results of research around the failures rates of corporate initiatives, leaders should advocate for, and instill confidence in, the decision to invest in better preparation to prevent more expensive clean-up efforts later.
Wrap Up & Up Next
Preparation is about the combination of thoroughness, attention to detail and risk management. It requires work, and at times can be hard to prove the value of since its goal is the prevention of adverse impacts (essentially, you’d have to identify and measure what doesn’t happen, i.e. what your preparedness prevented).
No matter what the project or initiative is at your company, preparation is key.
Next time we’ll examine the 20th intersection of performance, which is the Competence Intersection.
In this series of articles, we explore The Intersections of Performance, of which there are 30. The Intersections of Performance framework is based on the experience and insights of Brett Simpson, Managing Director of Elevate Simply, over his 20+ years of leadership in large and small organizations, and as an entrepreneur, advisor and investor.