The importance of being prepared redux

I am fascinated by recurring themes in life. I have written earlier about the importance of being prepared. The examples discussed therein were teaching and public speaking.

Earlier in the week I was at the Elevate City Convention, an invite-only women leaders’ networking event, run under the Chatham House Rule. We were discussing “The City in a post-Brexit world”. Like many others, I had a reasonable inkling that despite not being the party that filed for divorce aka Brexit, the EU-27 were vastly better prepared and clear on their consensus on matters arising from a post-Brexit relationship. I was however quite surprised during the discussion to hear about just how well prepared they were.

Michel Barnier, the chief negotiator for the EU-27, is committed to the idea of creating a level playing field, it was noted by those in the know. He assembled a team of negotiators, one from each member state. He spoke or met daily with not only the ambassadors of member states but also those people from every member state who, while not elected representatives, were key stakeholders in their respective countries. He reportedly did not shy away from engaging with any disagreeing voices and worked to build consensus. It was also noted that whatever appetite may have been in some member states to exit the EU is now at its lowest ebb, now that they understand the sheer effort involved in such a separation.

Many people at the event noted that the historically successful British preference for “divide-and-rule”, though there is no suggestion that the British invented it — that kept the colonial rule alive — stood no chance against such clarity, such focus, solid preparation, and such a unified negotiator on the other side of the table.

In other words, “winging it” — as made famous by a photo from a Brexit negotiation meeting where David Davis sat without any papers or pens while Michel Barnier’s side had notes and writing materials — is being dragged to a painful denouement by the prepared.

What’s worse is that with chopping and changing factions emerging with every non-step even as the clock runs down — itself illustrative of how no preparation was put in by our side before heading to negotiations over the fate of the whole nation — and Theresa May’s credibility and ability to sell her ideas to the Parliament evidently poor and dwindling, the EU has no incentive to offer any ground in the negotiation.  In other words, the EU is not hesitating to call her “bluff”. One day Barnier v Brexit indeed may be the definitive case material for teaching Negotiation in business schools and elsewhere.

Fortune, success and personal satisfaction favour the prepared, we are told. The theme “be prepared” recurs in so many areas in life, I naively keep expecting to see it in action.

And every once in a while, I do come across stellar ones that are quite satisfying to my belief in being prepared.

Even though in this instance, as a result, we in the UK are slouching towards a no-deal which will, by all accounts, be socially and economically devastating.