A culture of preparedness drives innovation, growth
Many positive outcomes arise when preparation is part of a company culture
Key presentations delivered without the benefit of a peer review. Proposals submitted at the last minute without a proof-read to catch a misplaced decimal. Wasted hours spent in meetings where there were no prepared agendas or defined outcomes. If these scenarios have a familiar, anxiety-conjuring ring ̶ you are not alone.
If these scenarios are part of your organization’s current reality, changing that narrative is entirely possible. There is a saner, more sustainable approach to doing business, one built around preparedness.
Granted, there will always be moments when workloads mount, deadlines stack and proper preparation takes a back seat to getting the work done. And yes, some of the best work a person or team delivers could come while under the gun, driven more by sheer adrenaline than forethought or preparation. However, the benefits of consistently being better prepared, as well as the risks of being underprepared, are too significant to ignore.
Sometimes an organization’s internal mythology can glorify ready-fire-aim achievements, but when it comes to consistent quality — of the workplace experience for employees, of the overall work product they deliver and of the ideas that fuel growth — this last-minute mindset is not a good long-term substitute for careful planning.
When an organization and its leaders make thoughtful preparedness a key element of their culture, not only does it drive a company’s maturation, it also drives results. The following are examples of positive outcomes that occur when people are consistently prepared and armed with detailed plans.
- Teams gain more runway to execute at a pace appropriate to the project or undertaking. More runway gives your employees more latitude to try new things — and try again if necessary. It also leaves room for unexpected delays and unexpected twists projects will inevitably take.
- Leaders have a greater opportunity to strategically prioritize and allocate resources toward important goals. If you aren’t looking out ahead, all the tasks in front of you register as urgent, which can unduly distract attention and focus from what really matters to the business.
- People and teams get more time to reflect on the outcomes of their work. This includes what went right, what went wrong, why it went wrong and where and how processes could be improved.
- People have more energy and time to spend on the higher-value work of serving customers and generating innovative ideas that fuel growth. When people feel value in their work, they tend to be less stressed, less prone to burn-out and ultimately more engaged. This can result in a more balanced quality of life for employees and for employers, and a higher probability of attracting and retaining talent.
All these scenarios feed consistently better execution and outcomes across your organization. In order to build and sustain preparedness as a key cultural element in your organization, start with these four strategies:
- Preach and practice preparedness from the top. Organizations can create a company calendar each year, so people have transparency to timelines around strategic planning, budget periods and performance reviews. Then, employees can plan their work accordingly. When leaders provide structure and process for preparedness at the top, it becomes a company value and expectation for how we do business.
- Invest in workflow management and communications tools. By giving people integrated tools to communicate with one another seamlessly, to share calendars, key learnings, goals and information (as well as instructions on how to use these tools) you’re empowering employees to practice preparedness.
- Establish protocols and intention around meetings. Because labor is expensive, treat meeting time as a precious commodity and preparedness as a way to maximize that commodity. Some organizations have a policy where every scheduled meeting requires an advance agenda, and if the person responsible for creating that agenda doesn’t circulate it at least a day in advance, the meeting has to be postponed. Also consider whether a meeting is the best way to share the information at hand.
- Create real incentives for approaching workflow and deadlines less maniacally and more methodically. Reward people and teams for sticking to the various points on a project timeline, for delivering a high-quality outcome to a client well before the deadline and for preparing in any other way.
None of this is to suggest you need to run a military-style operation. The goal is to use preparedness to free up more time and energy for the spontaneity, creativity and focus that ultimately drive growth and innovation. A culture of preparedness can also be a culture of flexible working, of reasonable work/life balance, of joy and fulfillment — essentially, a culture in which there’s plenty of room to celebrate the positive outcomes that preparedness brings.
Audrey Norwood has been at high-growth technology companies for 10+ years and is currently the Chief of Staff at GoSpotCheck.