Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Ned was not doing well.  And it wasn’t the “Someone-posted-something-political-on-Facebook” kind of not doing well.  His professional life wasn’t going as planned and he felt unsettled.

As he was sitting in my office, he explained that his old partner offered him a role at his previous firm, but his position would be slightly different. His old partner wanted him to start a new division in the company. He asked me for advice. He was excited about the prospect of creating a new beginning, but he wasn’t sure how to evaluate the opportunity.

It struck me that his head was full of possibilities about how this new division could work, but his vision was not cohesive. He had a lot of random thoughts.

(So do I. Like, I wonder if I should throw a surprise birthday for my dog because…what if dogs do know about birthdays, and his has gone unnoticed all this time?)

But I digress.

People say that when one door closes, another opens. I’m not sure if that is true. Sometimes doors just close. In fact, most of the time, when a door closes, that’s all that happens.

But I digress again.

What I do know is that when you walk through a door, you are walking away from something. Evaluating new possibilities can be difficult because it requires that you consider changing the status quo. And because the status quo is comfortable, many of us don’t want to walk away from it.

So this is my process for evaluating new opportunity:

Imagine possibilities.
Evaluate results of those possibilities.
Consider resources required to produce those results.

Imagine what the business could do.  

Think about the possibilities stemming from your new opportunity. What is the vision? If the opportunity is related to your business, who would you serve and how would you create that service or product? 

In short, muse.  Wonder!  “What would happen if?”  “Wouldn’t it be nice to …” Do not stop at what is “probable.” Consider everything that is possible under the sun. You see, you cannot possibly know what is probable because you do not have a full picture. When you start from the probably, you often undershoot what is possible.
Evaluate the results.

After you think about what is possible, consider what the result of those possibilities might be.  Ask: “If I do this or that, what is the result it will cause?”

Now, consider whether those results align with what is really valuable to you and whomever else is involved in realizing the possibility.  

Doing stuff always causes something to happen. The problem is that folks often have a fuzzy idea of what the results will be. And, truth be told, sometimes they do not want the results.  Results obviously have a money impact.  Results also effect relationships.

I have a friend who thought she wanted to be a sitcom writer.  When she thought about the possibility of being a sitcom writer, she imagined sitting in a writers’ room with a ton of comedians, laughing all day. But when she really considered the results of “making it” in the industry, she realized several things: She would work long hours. She would not have a flexible schedule. She sure as hell wouldn’t be able to pick her kids up from school every day.

And none of that aligned with her top value, which was her family.

In Ned's case, creating a plan that results in outcomes that his ex-partner does not value will cause problems down the road. This is something Ned needs to consider before diving in.

Finally, consider the resources.

Once you have established the possibilities and understand whether the anticipated results are consistent with the values of everyone involved, then consider the resources needed to realize those outcomes. Contrary to folks thinking, great outcomes just don’t happen because they make you happy.  It takes resources.  How much money, manpower and know-how is required to get to the goal? And more importantly, is it worth it?

I call this three-part process of imagining possibilities, evaluating results and considering resources, “The Planning Triad.” And here’s what I like about it: It gives order to chaos. A new opportunity is usually an abstraction. Until you can give it some sort of organization, you will likely feel unsettled. But once you apply The Planning Triad, you can begin seeing the opportunity as a concrete option. Then, and only then, will you be prepared to decide whether you want to walk through that door.

Thought of the week:  Next time a new opportunity comes your way, use the Planning Triad---Yep---Write those three elements on a sheet and make notes about each.  You will find that it will help you realize your goals.