In the famous book of yore, The Art Of War, Sun Tzu,says, “Know the enemy and know yourself: in a hundred battles you will never be in peril”.
Perhaps for every aspect of life, being in a state of preparedness, is the single most distinguishing factor in the outcome of either success or failure.
Failure may be too strong a word; what is meant is non-achievement of whatever the cherished goal may have been, for which the pursuit was undertaken. Most enterprises are undertaken without adequate preparation. It is a tendency on the part of managers to place heavy reliance on past practices and largely outdated knowledge base, while they embark to take new business challenges. Such believe that the past reactions to exigencies of business can be profitably deployed to meet the changing environment of now and here. In some cases, this attitude can hold water, but in most situations of the newly emerging realities require imperatively a different set of responses. This distinctive approach to handling issues is the crux of managerial ability; that is to shift from the base knowledge of the past to newer developments of thought and action. No organisation can afford to jump in to a situation, without preparedness, or else they will be questioning themselves for the longest time why they couldn't make headway.
Everything around us is in a state of flux. The dynamic change that is happening at great speed demands of organisation and people to continuously upscale their abilities and skills for meeting the consequences of the emerging challenges. Leaders/ managers today need to be recognised by their competencies, than by the mere arrogant, vulgar and inflated corporate titles. The movement between titles is dependent upon the acquisition of new skills and updated knowledge. Those who will wait for change to happen, for amending themselves, shall invariably be hit by change. Managers must ready themselves with fresh technology for inducting better ways of achieving objectives, inclusive of the daily grind.
All successful people prepare. All of them put in long and strenuous hours to ensure success. Leaders, managers, sportsmen, musicians, technicians, steamship captains, airline pilots, and all that belong to different vocations, indulge in positive preparation.
I have always reminded myself and other speakers that the speech delivered must be extempore for the audience only, not for the speaker himself. A US President Calvin Coolidge is reported to have said upon being invited to address a gathering that if he has to speak for a specified thirty minutes, he would need three weeks to prepare, but if he were to speak endlessly, he said , I am ready “Now”! It follows that to have meat and substance in any endeavour there has to be serious dedication of being prepared.
Whilst preparing, it is best to ask oneself, what is being sought; what is the objective; and only thence, set the sails. Speed of action is not critical, what is of importance is a well thought out plan for ensuring availability of the skills required, to meet challenges of the future.
In digging the past, managers must aim, to discover the fundamental principles that may have resulted in either victory or defeat. In the analysis of the buried past, we still can learn, regardless of the outcome. The perspective has to be built around in keen observation and a logical pursuit, for gaining better knowledge. It is rightly said that after a few visits to the library, any will know more than an average person, regarding any subject.
Leaders cannot be spectators to change; they have to be the agents of change, and this is possible only if there is enough preparation. Being not ready for the task or being totally oblivious to preparation can be extremely stressful, be it in relation to any activity. In the course of preparation, managers have to anticipate possibilities that are likely to occur and subsequent to that mentally gauge and think through to prepare distinctive responses. Preparedness is the foundation of success.
Being well prepared for any task is an outright fifty percent assurance of success. A manager is akin to the captain of a submarine, who knows when to push the periscope up for scanning the presence of a challenge; similarly a complete review of the market conditions is a prerequisite for getting prepared. Chance favours the prepared mind, said, Louis Pasteur.
To be of relevance tomorrow, organisations and people must prepare today. The market forces throw out those who are not up to the task. The market movements, both upwards and downwards, require ability to forecast with near to accuracy; only those possessed of this trait to foresee, can indulge in any real preparation for meeting changing market situations and trends.
Every organisation must build a culture of seeking knowledge; and then ensure its dissemination through the rank and file. Knowledge management must remain the primary domain of the CEO and the human resources function.
In conclusion to this piece, Abraham Lincoln's comment is most apt, “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I would spend six hours sharpening my axe”.
The writer is a senior banker and freelance columnist