Sooner or later everybody experiences a low in motivation, gets upset by a boss, is unhappy with compensation, working conditions, job content or colleagues. Some are quick to quit, others more thinkingful about a decision with potential long-lasting consequences. Some rely on their gut feelings, others need more factual analysis.
This series of posts is intended for the second category, for those pondering, cautious and looking for rationality when considering their next career move. I used the Goal Tree (a multipurpose logic tool) myself, both for testing the tool’s ability to shed rational light on a serious and personal decision and in order to deliver a real case and first hand tested testimonial.
Readers will find a lot about the Goal Tree, how to build one, the use cases and more in the dedicated pages on this blog. Please visit my Goal Tree collection of posts and read my Goal Tree Chronicles.
The process from being fed-up to making a decision
The proposed process starting from an unsatisfactory situation to making an informed decision has five sequential steps:
1 – State and refine your Goal, your ambition
2 – Understand the Critical Success Factors to achieving your Goal
3 – List and order all prerequisites using necessity-based logic
4 – Self assess your current capabilities and color-code the Goal Tree
5 – Reflect on the assessment result and act
This will take some time, more or less depending on one’s temper, depth of analysis and attention to details. But taking time also helps to cool down, especially when emotions are running high. Ditching a job too quick in anger is not always a good answer. And the rationality brought in by this process is meant to balance the intuition and emotions.
Readers please note the process will work the same, with lesser emotions involved usually, with a more positive alternative like being offered a position in another company, contacted by a headhunter or attracted by an open position. Ultimately this may lead to decide about resigning or not.
1 – State and refine your Goal, your ambition
The first mandatory step is to state and refine your Goal, your ambition. Quitting a job out of disappointment is no Goal nor an ambition. The purpose of this first step is to plan for the long term, which is (rule of thumb) at least 5 years ahead, maybe as far as 10 or more years.
What is it you want to be or achieve in 5 or 10 years? “Que sera, sera”(*) is no good answer as the proposed process is meant to drive and keep control over one’s career, not to float along with the opportunities.
(*) The famous song by Doris Day goes:
When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother, what will I be
Will I be pretty
Will I be rich
Here’s what she said to me
Que será, será
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que será, será
What will be, will be
More here https://greatsong.net/PAROLES-DORIS-DAY,QUE-SERA-SERA,106736916.html
Stating the Goal is very important, as it is the basic seed for the whole tree, meaning that the Goal statement will determine the outcome of the rational analysis. The more specific and well stated Goal, the easier and more relevant and robust the next steps.
A Goal statement is expressed in present tense. This is a mental trick for visioning the desired future as it would already be achieved or a kind of virtual fast forward, looking at the achieved Goal.
Therefore, “be successful” is not a good Goal statement. “I am a recognized and sought-after expert of the Peruvian flying tiger ant” is much better, even if more difficult to achieve though.
From the Goal statement, the underlying prerequisites or Necessary Conditions to achieve the Goal will be identified and listed. In the statement above, in order to be recognized, there are specific Necessary Conditions (NCs) for this to happen, like for instance getting published in a scientific review or being a regular keynote speaker in conferences.
The number of reactions to a publication, the number of copies sold in the case of a book, the number of attendees at the conferences or the number of invitations to be a keynote speaker provide the metrics to assess how close you are from your Goal. Therefore, when crafting your Goal, think ahead about the KPIs to monitor if you are still on the right track and the distance to achieving your Goal.
Such a rational analysis is much more complicated and prone to end up with a fluffy tree if the statement is not specific enough. For instance what does it mean to “be successful”?
The same applies to corporate strategy or a company-wide transformation program, the Goal to achieve must be carefully stated, especially because that Goal will be the True North for a longer period of time, the ultimate target onto every effort and initiative is aligned.
Note that building a Goal Tree is not a creativity exercise, but a rational analysis. I have to emphasize this over and over. Thus, if the Goal is ill-stated, chances are that the tree builders (in a broader, general case) will fill the blanks with their perceptions, ideas, understanding or desires, but not necessarily with something really necessary for achieving the organization’s Goal!
Hints to define one’s professional Goal
- Set the time horizon. Are you considering something to achieve soon? Within 2 years? In the next 5 years or even a further goal in 10 years?
- Express what you want to be / to achieve, what will be your True North, your guiding star for the period of time you’ve defined above.
- Be specific enough in order to infer the underlying prerequisites.
Think ahead how to assess your progress towards achieving your Goal, how to measure, how to evaluate. E.g. status, income, direct reports, turnover generated, number of successful projects delivered, number of houses built, reputation…
- At this stage, it is not necessary to ponder if the ambition is reasonable or the Goal achievable. The next steps will reveal how easy of difficult it will be. If the Goal is too easy to achieve, the use of a Goal Tree might be overkill and the Goal finally be “nothing more” than an intermediate objective on the road to the true Goal. It is acceptable but will require to go through the same exercise again by restating the Goal.
Example : in 10 years from now, “I am a famous orthopedic surgeon and professor, specialized in hand surgery with international reputation and leading a top team in a first class institute”.
The next step