Well-Formed Outcomes - The First Key To Career Success

It is a defining feature of outstandingly successful people that they know what they want to get out of life and a pretty good idea about how to get there. This is not to say that such high achievers are dogmatic and inflexible — far from it. For successful people, if an avenue to achievement becomes unrealistic or blocked, then they will simply refocus and re-form their plans to take account of the changed circumstances.

It all starts and continues with defining a series of very well-formed outcomes.

So what do I mean by well-formed outcomes and how are these different from more broadly based aspirations, wishes and positive intents? Here are some straightforward and important distinctions. 


Well-formed outcomes:

  • Specific words and pictures about what has to be achieved

  • Positive statements about what will be achieved

  • Clear milestones and a measurable end point

  • Anticipate likely barriers and consequences for others

“In the next three months, I want to take on a new sales job where I have management responsibility for others and a sizeable budget, in an organisation that highly rewards and recognises individual achievements. The location of my new job needs to allow for the fact that my partner can continue with his/her successful job”

Not well-formed outcomes:

  • Poorly expressed and unspecific about what has to be achieved

  • Negative statements about what will not be done

  • Too general and lacking a clear timeframe

  • Fail to take account of likely obstacles and impact on other

“I am fed up with my current role and organisation and I want to leave and find a new job soon that pays me more”

A simple process for defining well-formed outcomes

1. What's the broad outcome?

In the simplest possible terms, write down the broad area where you want to make a change: i.e I want a new job.

2. Why?

Write down all the reasons why this broad outcome is desirable or important to you. Always answer the why question with the words “in order to” and avoid answering with the word “because”, i.e. I want a new job in order to:

  • earn more money

  • take on more responsibility & achieve more

  • do something more worthwhile

  • become more expert

Being clear about the "why" will test your own aspiration and desire and provide you with a stronger incentive to get there.

3. How?

What are the options and opportunities for you to achieve your goal and what kind of plan will you need to move forward? This includes such important questions as:

  • What should I do first?

  • Who do I need to speak to?

  • How will I review progress and keep myself on track?

  • What is my fallback plan if I hit obstacles?

4. Benefits and enablers

Build a clear picture of the benefits you will derive from achieving your goal; what are the positive forces that are likely to get you to your end outcome? What positive incentives can you give yourself for keeping your eye on the end goal and not being deflected?

5. Consequences and obstacles

What is most likely to prevent you from achieving your end goal and what is your plan for dealing with these potential obstacles? Aside from yourself, who is likely to be most affected by the change you are seeking to achieve? What do you need to do to ensure those people remain comfortable and supportive of your plans?

This process of self-questioning will help you build a very robust and clear set of well-formed outcomes. It will take your wishes and aspirations from a broad intent to a well thought-through and committed course of action.

In the meantime if you need any more immediate help with advancing your career, please contact us for a confidential initial discussion.