Right on. In cognitive theory this preparation is known as anticipatory awareness. I thought that it can be illustrated with the difference between playing golf and playing football. in golf there is a defined objective and reasonably knowable context, where you can measure the distance to the hole, know your own ability with golf clubs and plan a strategic line of attack that will get you there in the fewest strokes possible.
In football it's completly different. The goal is the goal, but getting there requires you to have all kinds of awareness. More often than not, your best strategy might be to play the ball backwards. It may be wise to move the ball to the goal in AS MANY passes as possible, in a least efficient way because doing so denies your opponent time on the ball. And the context for action is constantly changing and impossible to be certain about. And it also adjusts as you begin to get entrained in patterns. If you stick to a long ball game, the defending team can adjust , predict your next move and foil it.
This is, I believe, what drives Americans crazy about football. There is rarely a direct path to goal and teams can go for whole games simply holding on to the ball and then make one or two key finishing moves. Some call that boring, and it is, if you are in a culture that is about achieving the goal as quickly as possible and moving on.
You plan golf holes by pre-selecting teh clubs you will use in each shot and making small adjustments as you go. In football you prepare by doing drills that improve your anticipatory awareness , help you operate in space and become more and more fit, so that you have more physical options. Yes you can scout an opponent, but football is won on the pitch and not in the strategy room. Golf is very often won in the strategy room, as long as your execution is masterful.
Thanks Chris. Yes I am always happy when football is what we are playing! As you know. I also appreciated your recent blog which referenced this video blog.
A helpful distinction, for sure, but the trouble is that - for many situations - the argument is likely to be a problematically circular one. After all, how do we know what we should or shouldn't prepare for? In many cases we need to give advance thought to this, which starts to sound a lot like planning to me...
yes. Upon reflection, I think what this blog points at is a way to approach the work ... an ability to adjust course in response to real needs as they arise rather than follow through on a plan - just because you have one ...
Thanks for sharing Tim, I very much resonate and find it so relevant for my work! It is very present as a question in workshop design.
What I am sitting with at the moment is a question about what judgment shall I use to tell whether the plan is fit enough for the circumstances or whether I am prepared enough and my intuitions trumps the necessity to stick to the plan. An example: the "plan" for the workshop looks neat, and yet my colleague and I sense that there is something else needed for the participants to make the most of the session. Hence we tune into our "preparedness" (vs our plan) to adapt. And yet, what when there is some resistance from the group which is quite telling, and we *need* to stick to the plan and go through the entire process to uncover whatever needs to be unearthed? I hope you got the idea.
Ha! yes. Simple concept not such a simple practice ... I hear you. The only thing I know is that the more I practice being flexible and adaptive the better I become at it. We get good at what we practice ... and by practicing ourselves we learn how to create the conditions for others. If we can agree this is a worthy pursuit - to move from a culture where planning dominate to one where preparation is also part modus operandi - then I think we all have to practice and share what we learn. There are some great tools to play around with with for tracking on longer term projects like developmental evaluation ... I did a bit of a blog on that last year - see here: http://www.timmerry.com/blog/evaluation-metrics-that-matter-not-vanity-metrics
These questions are exactly why I find the Cynefin framework so useful in helping to discern when to plan and when to prepare (and when to react)
Tim--I don't see planning and preparing as opposites which "vs." implies. I think you are describing the tension between what is planned and what is emergent. When seen as polarities to leverage, one must be attentive to over-planning to the neglect of being in the moment, By the same token, it's possible to be over-focused on the emergent pole. Using your analogy, with no plans/maps, you could find yourself at the edge of a cliff without the necessary ropes, boots, food, etc. to get to your destination. The key is to have strategies to both plan well (be prepared, as the scouts say) and be aware of what the present moment calls for. So, have a well-thought out agenda with time frames and be comfortable completely revamping it as needed when you get there. It takes preparedness to do both, seems to me. Totally agree that strategic thinking is far more valuable than a strategic plan AND scenario planning can be really useful.
Yes, it is not as simple as one vs the other - but sometimes naming the tension leads to a good conversation :-)
So true! I am repeating it since years and years again and again in my courses.
I like your blog a lot dear Tim! It helps me find easy words when I feel tired in my work. I am in the middle of a big challenge now : I am working for the road transport industry, developing mostly "train the trainer" courses for truck drivers within European projects. Changing mentalities from (almost) scratch. It's a sector where communication and training are mostly technical and where they are slowly discovering that the soft skills development is missing. They are still quite reluctant to change and your blog is bringing me oxygen :-)
Warm greetings from Brussels
Love this. Absolutely. I like the idea that planning can crush or block innovation. Of course it's not an either - or, but planning can be a safe way to control your team/audience, and is often built on predictive assumptions. There is a certain freedom with allowing yourself to go in prepared, with a broad range of tools, not entirely sure which tools will be the appropriate ones.
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