What’s Involved in That New Project

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Last time, I wrote about enhancing your credibility so you might be offered additional new and interesting opportunities. This time, let’s start with the assumption that you are offered such an opportunity. How should you proceed?

Before you commit to it, here are some questions to ask and answer about the new task, project, or goal:

What’s the Vision?

Until you know where you are headed, it’s difficult to make good progress in the right direction. Your first step, therefore, should be to identify what a successful outcome of this new opportunity will look like.

Depending on the situation, you may want to do this by asking others who know more about it than you do. Or you might want to set your own targets for procedures, performance, and deliverables.

Either way, it’s important that you know where you are headed, and also that you are OK with going there. Otherwise, this opportunity is likely to be disappointing and perhaps a mistake for you to tackle.

Who Else is Onboard?

A critical consideration in any new opportunity is evaluating any other people who are involved. This includes all the people who may be overseeing the task, project, or goal, those who are participating with you in bringing it to fruition, as well as any who may be depending on the results you are expected to deliver.

When the other people involved are highly suitable, competent, and motivated, it’s more likely you will have an exciting, growth-oriented, and successful experience.

On the other hand, if any of the other people involved are too prone to micromanagement, for example, or lacking in the skills and abilities needed to produce a successful result, your experience may be far less satisfying than you want. There are a host of other possible deficiencies, including cooperative or competitive problems, that can also derail the task, project, or effort toward the goal.

What’s Expected?

Another important issue to explore when entering upon a new opportunity is other people’s expectations.

This should include what they anticipate as yours and their:

  • Commitments of time, effort, expertise, and other resources.
  • Specific authorities, roles and responsibilities, as well as policies, procedures, and methods of conflict resolution within the opportunity.
  • Positions and levels of “ownership” – literal and/or figurative.
  • Contributions of skills, knowledge, and expertise.

It’s best when everyone’s expectations are in alignment. When people expect too much or too little of each other, practical and interpersonal problems frequently arise, often giving rise to an experience far less satisfying that it otherwise could be.

What’s the Likely Trajectory?

Opportunities are rarely static. Just as “no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy,” no opportunity works out as originally envisioned. Instead, situations develop in unexpected ways, plans turn out to be inadequate, various forces change strength and direction, priorities change, and new factors arise.

The result is that opportunities are likely to grow, shrink, and otherwise surprise you – not always happily.

That’s why it’s important you consider the various ways a new opportunity you are offered may turn into something entirely different. It’s good to know in advance how you will feel, react, and behave if and when it does.

Opportunities that seem likely to be satisfying under a wide range of possible developments tend to be better prospects for your participation than those that must follow a very narrow path in order to take you where you want to go.

Exit Strategies?

It’s wise not to involve yourself in an opportunity unless you are comfortable with both the end game and the mechanisms for ending your (and others’) involvement.

Just as healthy marriages recognize the possibilities for unpleasantness and even the rules for divorce, opportunities should include some sort of guidelines for unwinding each individual’s commitment and involvement if things go south.

You shouldn’t consider these exit strategies as “negative expectations.” Instead, appreciate that they provide one or more clear, objective targets that define success. They also can serve as “off ramps” for transitioning or wrapping up the opportunity after specific milestones are attained, or when it’s clear a specific milestone is no longer attainable.

Recognizing and evaluating these matters from the very beginning of your involvement can help adjust your expectations of the experience and the outcome.

You’ll likely be offered a wide range of opportunities to be more productive and successful in your work and your life, and to make progress toward your most important goals. But some opportunities are intrinsically better than others. Conditions can even be unsuitable enough for you to decide not to participate.

The wisdom to say “no” to an unsuitable situation is just as important as the courage to say “yes” to a good one.

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