Monday, March 2, 2009

Preparation is key

Preparation is key.

We've all heard that phrase before. It's probably one of the phrases you've heard so many times you don't really pay attention to it anymore. In fact, I used to think it wasn't true - I am a born procrastinator, and I am not ashamed to admit it.

I do some of my best work at the last minute; I think if I have too much time to think about something, I think about it too much. My thoughts become too broad and wishy-washy. If I wait until the last minute, however, I become much more focused and decisive.

But back to preparation.

I used to think that because I was a procrastinator, it meant I didn't prepare for anything. I've come to realize lately that this is in not true. Regardless of the fact that I am preparing at the last minute, rather than far in advance, I'm still preparing. In fact, if I prepared far in advance, I'd forget what I was preparing for by the time my due date neared.

Today at work I came to the abrupt realization that one of my biggest office pet peeves, one of the things that make me the most frustrated, is lack of preparation. Take this morning - I came to work in a great mood. I was feeling positive, thinking good thoughts, and knew I was going to have a great day.

By 8:25, all positive thoughts had flown the coop of my brain and were immediately replaced with fuming, frustrated, angry thoughts about anyone and everyone I work with.

I work in a training unit, and for the particular training that we are currently conducting, we are using guest instructors (supervisors from our division). They are the subject matter experts, so they are conducting this very technical training - makes sense, no?

Today's instructors were completely unprepared. I had high hopes at first - they did a great job of introducing themselves, describing their background, and going over the ground rules for the class.

Then they began reading from the power point presentation. Reading EXACTLY what was on the power point presentation.

They finally remembered to go to their instructor's manual and look at what they were supposed to be teaching. By not familiarizing themselves with the lesson, they failed to do two exercises, read over something out of order, and had to stop and find their place several times in the first hour of class.

Why does someone else's lack of preparation upset me so? First, as the lead analyst in the training unit, their poor performance ultimately reflects on me. I know there is only so much I can do to help them prepare (we gave them the lesson and materials over a month ago, held a "Training for Trainers" class so they could learn to present, and organized all the materials so a five-year old could understand them (or so I thought); I know they have to take the initiative to be prepared, but I am frustrated nonetheless.

Second, I sat in on the class for the first two hours, and it was a waste of time. When your instructor is not prepared, you really don't learn anything from them. The only way you learn from an unprepared instructor is to read through the materials provided and teach yourself. I hope that the students in today's class took their own iniative to read their handouts, because they certainly were not receiving top-notch instruction.

Finally, the instructors sent me in and out of the room to duplicate materials that were supposedly missing from participant's binders. Were they really missing? No. The instructors, once again, were unfamiliar with the material because they had not prepared. Out I went to make copies, which is SO not in my job description, and when I returned, it of course turns out that they'd found the so-called "missing" materials.

My dad used to work for an elected official. At every meeting this official had with his top executives, or any meeting at all, really, he asked a lot of questions, and he expected you to know the answer. If you hesitated at all in your answer, or if it was clear that you were not prepared, he cut you off and told you to go find the answer and report back. He did not want anyone to guess, or to give him information that may or may not be true.

I am that same type of person. I expect you to be prepared, whether it be for a meeting, a training you're conducting, or simply an assignment you've prepared that I have a question about. In return, you can expect the same from me. I will come prepared to meetings, I will fully prepare for training by practicing and at the very least, reading through my materials, and you can bet I've done enough research on my assignments that I can answer any question you may ask. On the off chance I can't, I won't fake it - I'll tell you I don't know and I'll go find the answer.

I don't believe what some people say - persons in lower paying positions probably won't have the skills and abilities you would like. This is not true - they may not have adequately developed skills and abilities, but in some people, you can tell the potential is there.

And in some people - it just isn't.


  1. I totally agree... and one of my pet peeves is when people just read you their powerpoints... Ugh. Sorry it was such a crap day.

  2. Oh that's okay it got much worse as the day went on. I'll have to tell you about it soon, but for now, I'm going to bed.


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