Gerwig 2014-02-17

Do you like eating out? You know, going to a nice 5-start restaurant or an off-the-beaten-path spot, a true hole-in-the-wall. Maybe, like me, you’re a bit of a foodie. You like good food and interesting spots. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a white table cloth affair or a local spot on the “other side of the tracks.” As long as the food is great, you don’t care whether you’re eating on linen or plastic, drinking out of crystal or paper, or required to wear to wear a jacket.

One thing I’ve observed about good food is that it takes time and excellence to prepare. No, I’m not a great chef or even a run-of-the-mill cook, but I enjoy and appreciate good food. You can add coffee to that list. While I will drink regular coffee found at the local gas station, I truly enjoy a nicely pulled double-espresso or espresso macchiato.

Perhaps one reason I appreciate great food is because of my mother. You see, my mother is a great cook. When I was a small boy, I didn’t realize that one of the keys to her excellent dishes was preparation. She started with a good recipe and top quality ingredients. As I grew, I realized that you can’t make a great meal with inferior ingredients. Whether vegetables, meat, pasta, flour, or olive oil, I learned that using excellent ingredients is a requirement to an amazing meal. Ever hear the saying, “you can’t put lipstick on a pig?” This applies to great cooks and the food they serve. A good recipe and topnotch ingredients is a requirement for a mouth-watering dish.

This winter, as noted in a couple of my recent articles, has been harsh. For those living in much of the US, this winter has brought cold, snow and ice that hasn’t been seen in 40 years. It seems as if every couple days we’re expecting snow or ice. And the temperatures have routinely been in the teens or single digits. It’s been cold.

During times of extreme cold, preparation is even more important than normal. The benefit of a cook’s preparation is a mouth-watering dish. The benefit of preparation when it’s 5 degrees Fahrenheit is comfort. Sometimes being prepared is a matter of taste, other times it’s a matter of life-or-death.

Have you ever experienced the consequences of a business, chef, team, or government agency not being prepared? Of course you have. How’d it go? Have you ever sat through a presentation where the speaker wasn’t prepared? Have you ever spent your hard-earned cash on a meal that didn’t taste good because the chef wasn’t prepared? Have you ever waited in a long line to get served because the driving license office wasn’t prepared for you?

I could go and on, but you get the idea. As a consumer, customer, or recipient of any service, we want to experience excellence. We want quick service. We want an excellent product or service. We want to feel important. What we really want is be the recipient of preparation. You get it. You cannot receive something of benefit if there has not been preparation upstream. Someone has prepared. Someone has taken time, effort, money, etc. and prepared a product or service for you.

One example (of thousands) that comes to mind is a work presentation I sat through. The small team had been assigned an issue to address. They were given resources. They were pulled off their normal job tasks. They were given permission to ask for help, including additional resources. Well, the day of the final presentation came. And, you guessed it, it was a disaster. The team’s results missed the mark and their presentation was boring, disappointing, and embarrassing.

Now we could spend a lot of time unpacking the cause of their failure. Did they have the right members? The right scope? The right leader? Etc. But with certainty, I can say they didn’t prepare. They didn’t prepare for success. They didn’t plan their time wisely. They didn’t prepare the technical tools needed to affect the outcome. And they did not prepare a professional presentation.

Lack of preparation equals failure. Lack of preparation in a restaurant results in a dish that doesn’t taste great and a disappointed customer who likely won’t return (not to mention that they’ll tell others). Lack of preparation in a home with kids results in numerous family dysfunctions. Lack of preparation in the corporate environment results in lost revenue and reduced customer loyalty. Lack of preparation in the athletic arena results in lost games or matches. Don’t let this happen to you.

Be prepared. Stand out. Use world-class ingredients if you desire a world-class outcome. Garbage in equals garbage out. Preparation isn’t enough. You need more than world-class ingredients to create a stunning result. But you’ll never achieve sustainable, world-class results without great preparation. A chef can mess up a dish even if she starts with top-notch ingredients, but if she doesn’t start with quality ingredients, she doesn’t stand a chance. Preparation is a necessary part of the equation. It also takes skill and other tools, but don’t overlook the importance and criticality of preparation to success regardless your endeavor.

What are some of your tricks to preparation? Any stories you’d like to share with other readers?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]


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