Failing to prepare...

...doesn't always mean preparing to fail. I'm all in favour of goals and targets but sometimes making it up as you go along can be a good thing, too.

I recently had to deliver two one-day workshops back to back: two different workshops for two different clients on two different subjects in two different places on two different days - the only common denominator was me. The first of those workshops, I prepared for meticulously; I took days to prepare it, possibly even weeks. I normally prepare extensively anyway but for this one I went above and beyond my normal routines. The second workshop, for reasons that aren't really relevant to this post, I did no prep for at all. In fact, for the second workshop, I walked into the room with no clear idea even of what I was going to do.

That experience, I have to say, was extremely stressful for me and violated one of my cardinal rules - I think it's deeply unprofessional for a trainer to start a workshop without being prepared. However, in these circumstances it wasn't possible and I was forced, effectively, to make it up as I was going along. I did so, and both workshops turned out fine. In fact, the feedback on both of the workshops was indistinguishable - it was as identical as the two workshops were different and, in case you're wondering, it was very good in both instances.

This has happened once before - I got a call from a local training company at 8 o'clock one morning asking me to run a workshop (which I'd never even seen before) starting at 9 o'clock that day. I walked to the office reading the facilitator manual and spent the whole day about thirty minutes ahead of the group; as they were doing an exercise, I was prepping the next session, frantically reading the notes and sorting out what I was going to say. Nobody noticed and the feedback was great.

I tell you this not to blow my own trumpet and tell you how good I am - call me up or email me, try a free taster session and you'll find out. I don't tell you this story as an excuse to complain about the efficacy of feedback forms - although I could, and I have done so previously on this blog. No, the reason I tell this story is because it started me wondering why I bother preparing in the first place.

Whenever I run a workshop, I get nervous and I think that's fine - it's how I know I take my job seriously. It shows I think it matters and I want to do a good job and my excessive preparation is how I ensure I do that good job. But what if I don't need to do all this prep? What if there's a level above which the additional preparation adds nothing to the quality of the workshop? That would certainly seem to be the lesson I could take from the instances I've outlined above.

The title of this blog is a reference to the old cliche that failing to prepare is preparing to fail. But I have to wonder whether so much preparation is necessary or even whether, sometimes, it's possible to prepare too much. Perhaps we could all benefit from a little spontaneity and a bit of making it up as we go along once in a while.

This blog

AccountingWEB is more than just a U.S. team of journalists and financial and technology experts - we have an international side, too. Members of our British team who publish AccountingWEB.co.uk share their ideas, insights, and perspectives from across the pond.

More from this blog

Bloggers crew

Steve Knowles has spent 25 years in business and practice in the UK, but he also worked in the states and the years haven't dulled his way of seeing an alternative view to everyone else, and every day is a new adventure.

48231

Joel M. Ungar, CPA is a lifelong resident of the Detroit area and a graduate of The University of Michigan. He is a principal with Silberstein Ungar, PLLC, a Top 15 auditor of SEC public reporting companies.

81281

Allan Boress, CPA, with over 25 years as a practitioner and consultant to the accounting profession. Mr. Boress is the author of 12 published books in 6 different languages, including a best-seller, The "I-Hate-Selling" Book.

53374

Larry Perry, CPA, CPA Firm Support Services, LLC, is the author of accounting and auditing manuals, author and presenter of live staff training seminars, and author of webcast and self-study CPE programs. He blogs about small audits, reviews, and compilations.

96216
Sandra Wiley, COO and Shareholder, is ranked by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Accounting as a result of her prominent role as an industry expert on HR and training as well as influence as a management and planning consultant. She is also a founding member of The CPA Consultant's Alliance. Sandra is a certified Kolbe™ trainer who advises firms on building balanced teams, managing employee conflict and hiring staff.
24443

Maria Calabrese, CIR, Human Resources manager for Fazio, Mannuzza, Roche, Tankel, LaPilusa, LLC in Cranford, New Jersey, Maria's topics revolve around the world of: Mentoring, Performance management, and The "Y Generation," a.k.a. "The whY generation".

60680

William Brighenti is a CPA, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Certified [Business] Valuation Analyst, operating an accounting, tax, and QuickBooks consulting firm in Hartford, Connecticut, Accountants CPA Hartford.

86314

Ken Garen, CPA, is the co-founder and President of Universal Business Computing Company (www.ubcc.com), a software development firm of high-volume, high-productivity accounting and payroll technology.

28396

Eva Rosenberg, MBA, EA, is the publisher of TaxMama.com, and author of the weekly syndicated Ask TaxMama column. She provides answers to tax questions from taxpayers and tax professionals worldwide.

69380

Amy Vetter, CPA, CITP is the CPA Programs Leader for Intacct Corporation responsible for leading the CPA/BPO Partners nationally.

38011
Brian Strahle is the owner of LEVERAGE SALT, LLC where he provides state and local tax technical services to accounting firms, law firms and tax research organizations across the United States. He also writes a weekly column in Tax Analysts State tax Notes entitled, "The SALT Effect." For more info, visit his website: www.leveragestateandlocaltax.com
109085
Scott H. Cytron, ABC, is president of Cytron and Company, known for helping companies and organizations improve their bottom line through a hybrid of strategic public relations, communications, marketing programs and top-notch client service. An accredited consultant, Scott works with companies, organizations and individuals in professional services (accounting, finance, medical, legal, engineering), high-tech and B2B/B2C product/service sales.
29820

Rita Keller is a nationally known CPA firm management consultant, speaker, author, mentor and blogger. She has over 30 years hands-on experience in CPA firm management, marketing, technology and administrative operations.

57643
Stacy Kildal is the mom of two fantastic kids, an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Certified Enterprise Solutions ProAdvisor, Sleeter Group Certified Consultant, a nationally recognized member of the Intuit Trainer and Writer Network, and co-host of RadioFree QuickBooks.
31838
Michael Alter's blog specializes in providing practical advice to those who seek greater profitability and practice management tactics that enhance deeper client relationships.
36369

Sally Glick, CMO, Principal, Marketer of the Year in 2003 and AAM Hall of Famer in 2007, leads a lively discussion of the constantly expanding roles of marketing and the professional marketers that drive this initiative in accounting firms of all sizes.

107617

The IMA Young Professionals Blog features the insights of IMA’s Young Professionals Committee. Committee members share advice and experiences on careers, continuing education, work/life balance, and other issues affecting young accounting and finance professionals.

37675

FEI Financial Reporting Blog provides highlights from SEC, PCAOB, FASB, IASB, and other regulatory news, including reporting under Sarbanes-Oxley Sect 404. It is written by Edith Orenstein, Director of Technical Policy Analysis at FEI.

118846

Sue Anderson has 30 years of experience in continuing education for accountants. Currently she is the program director for online CPE provider CPE Link.

66636

Jim Fahey is COO of Apple Growth Partners, a regional CPA firm in Ohio. His focus is on the effective and efficient use of technology within the firm by all team members.

43470
Caleb Newquist is the Editor-in-Chief of Sift Media US, overseeing content for both AccountingWEB and Going Concern.
71063

Leita Hart-Fanta, CPA, CGFM, and CGAP is the author of "The Yellow Book Interpreted" and owner of Yellowbook-CPE.com a website devoted to training for governmental auditors.

97764

AccountingWEB is more than just a U.S. team of journalists and financial and technology experts - we have an international side, too! Members of our British team who publish AccountingWEB.co.uk share their ideas, insights, and perspectives from across the pond.

58434