How Do You Prepare?

My town is replacing water meters (I think all the water meters, but certainly ours). They had records of what kind of water meter they expected—the size of the pipes in and out, etc.

The water meter guy got here yesterday, took one look at our meter, and called the foreman. Our water meter didn’t match the records the town had.

I suspect this happens more often than the town would like. The foreman wasn’t terribly surprised and came out to see what we had with his own eyes.

He took a picture and sent it to the guys who do the big pipes. (I’m sure they have a better designation, but I have no idea what it is.) They understood what we have and texted back what they would need.

The foreman did a couple of interesting things:

  • He asked someone back at the depot to check to see if they had the parts they needed. (They did.)
  • He checked to verify they could safely turn off the water inside the house (because the outside turnoff doesn’t work!). Yes, they can.
  • Then, and only then, did he schedule a new date.

We’re lucky. The big-pipe-guys are here now (as I type). (Actually, they left within 45 minutes, much faster than the expected two hours.)

I thought this was kind of cool. These guys found an exception to the norm. They handled their exception by understanding what they needed to do, verifying they had all the necessary tools and parts, making sure the site was ready for them to work safely, and then making sure I was available to let them in to work.

How many of us prepare for our work in this way (or any way)? Are you more likely to overprepare or underprepare?

When I prepare for a workshop or a client visit, I try to understand the environment as much as possible in advance. I prepare my material (content and simulations). Then, I’m ready to do the work. Back when I worked inside the organization, a couple of customer visits surprised me. That’s because someone else filtered the information for me. (The foreman did not filter information for his team.)

Sometimes, it’s okay if I don’t prepare a lot. I’ll learn as I prepare. I’m working on a new platform for my online workshops and I will learn as I proceed. I’m experimenting before I have students. I have prepared as much as I need to. Any more prep and I’m wasting time as opposed to learning what I could do.

When I write parts of my books, I sometimes do research before I start. More likely, I have researched all along and I use my bits and pieces of research as I write. I often discover more places I want to research.

We need different preparation for our different kinds of work. Sometimes, I prepare enough so I can adapt in the moment. Sometimes, I expect to learn so I don’t need to prepare as much. Sometimes I prepare in the moment. I don’t think there is One Right Way to prepare for work. It’s all about the problem you need to solve.

That is the question this week: How do you prepare?

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