Picking your next professional endeavor ain't easy. There's plenty of advice regarding that on the Internet. Usually, this topic is covered from junior's perspective - how to choose your first job, what to avoid, what kind of questions to ask first, etc. But in fact, it appears that seasoned veterans have similars dilemmas - once in a while some old acquaintance asks me for help in determining the next professional career step:
- which companies (in the area) are worth of interest?
- who offers enough of a challenge so that one could fulfill her/his ambitions?
- where could one elevate her/his game, instead of regressing the skillset?
Obviously - there's no single answer that would fit everyone. It depends on one's motivations, preferred collaboration model, ambition level, even personal ethics. Nevertheless, I've merged all those questions for the sake of providing the most valuable advice:
Of all companies (/teams) I've worked for in the last couple of years, which collaborations brought me most satisfaction, fulfillment & ... fun? And what's more important: what was the single factor this joint positive impression was mostly dependent on?
The answer (a single word) may sound surprising, but it came up naturally. Few months ago, I noticed I keep using this word more and more in my daily conversations.
This word is ...
Huh? But what do I mean by "clarity"? A "clarity" of what?
Let's call it a clarity of "work context".
Which means a joint clarity ...
- ... of vision (to follow, aka a strategic perspective)
- ... of goals (to achieve) / or problems (to beat, aka a tactical perspective)
- ... and of what I'm going to do tomorrow (to have things progressing, aka operational perspective).
Just to be clear: when I mention "goals", it's NOT just about having some goals listed on a scrap of paper. It's about truly understanding & embracing them, so even if (at this point in time) you don't know how to achieve them, you at least have the clarity of how/where to start.
What happens when ...
... the clarity is missing?
People drift. Focus gets lost. Positive energy gets wasted. Chaos lurks underneath. We shift from being paid for meaningful results (because we don't understand/foresee those results) to being paid for "time spent in work" - which is a real motivation & ownership killer.
In fact, clarity appears to be (in practice) fair compensation for various inconveniences - like dealing with an outdated tech stack or organizational debt (of any kind).
What could cause clarity to get lost? Lack of transparency (e.g., failing to shape a big picture accessible for everyone), miss-communications, neo-feudal hierarchies (and other kinds of knowledge/control siloes), diverging, inconsistent or too unstable priorities, lack of internal focus & delivery discipline (e.g., shitty prioritization), poor value management (everything is critical!), micro-management with a pathological lack of trust, ... and so it goes.
Paradoxically, these days it isn't easy to find a company w/o a written vision, mission statement or striking strategic goals. Unfortunately, they are usually very poorly defined. Take "digital transformation", which appears in every 2nd company's nearest plans - it's so vague and ambiguous that it practically means NOTHING. Who would die for it? Who would get motivated by "digitally transforming"? To be frank, such statements typically ... reduce the clarity, instead of improving it.
Clarity & leadership
I strongly believe in individuals taking ownership and being able to make a difference - the initiative can come from anywhere, either from the "bottom" or the "top". However, when it comes to clarity in particular, I find it as majorly leaders' responsibility. It's a part of their professional credibility. What we expect of a leader is:
- to understand where we are
- to know where we're heading
- to have (a visible) confidence we can get there
- to convince everyone else it's feasible and within reach
There's no excuse - someone w/o clarity AND the ability to "infect" others with that clarity simply can't be a credible leader.