Getting more COncrete: VOICES ANALYSIS
Hopefully, you already got some concrete points to work on on a personal level in order to start digging (i.e., examining oneself) the foundation and building it, upon which we hope to contribute in building our nation together. But let us get more concrete.
There are a number of seminars advocating methods on formulating one’s vision-mission in life and all the other steps that go with it. Perhaps because of my scientific training, I find all the steps the same or confusing. I wanted something more concrete and measurable. Hence, we formulated a model for a personal and organizational analysis of one’s dreams, capabilities, goals and how to measure one’s progress. We call it VOICES analysis patterned after the scientific way of writing proposals. When one plans out his life, it is like making a proposal. The same is true with an organization. And parts of this proposal may have to be revised as you live it and as you encounter situations that you may not have foreseen. This happens in a scientific proposal too. A scientist may have to revise his strategies and methods as he fulfills the steps he outlined in his proposal, in order to fulfill his objectives faster or more efficiently. The final paper contains some of the original parts of the proposal and the revisions. And so it is true with our lives and with experiences of organizations. Hence, the comparison and pattern of VOICES with the scientific proposal.
V stands for Vision, how you see yourself or your organization in the future. This may be likened to the title of a scientific proposal. The title encapsulates the whole content of the paper in a few words. In making your vision, put into few words, at most one sentence, the whole agenda of your life- how you want it to be. For an example, your vision in life could be: a world-class neurosurgeon. For organizations, write what you want your group to be known for, how you want people to recognize it. For an example, your vision for your group could be: a training ground for competent leaders with strong sense of values. It could also be a vision for one of the projects of your organization, e.g., “Project Forge: a leadership training and social outreach program.”
O stands for Objectives, your aims or the aims of your organization. In scientific proposals, objectives are normally found in the introduction of the paper. They are sometimes divided into a general objective and some specific objectives. The general objective summarizes the whole work to be done It provides a framework for the whole work. The specific objectives, on the other hand, dissect the general objective into concrete aims. It is like putting feet into the Vision. Following the example above, you may put the following as a general objective: to pursue a prestigious career in neurosurgery in the best medical institutions here and abroad. Your specific objectives could be: a. to enroll at the U.P. College of Medicine and take up a specialization in neurosurgery in 7 years; b. to undergo residency training at the Massachusetts General Hospital’s nuerosurgery unit within three years hence; etc. Your organization with a vision of honing leaders that are competent and virtuous could come up with specific aims that will help you reach this vision, e.g., to develop leadership programs that focus on moral values, to invite top professionals who imbue these ideals to be honorary members of the group and who will provide training to its members, etc.
I stands for Introspection which is examining one’s capabilities and defects. In the business world, they call this SWOT analysis: examining one’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Strengths are one’s virtues, knowledge and skills. Weaknesses are one’s vices and defects. Both Strengths and Weaknesses are within the person. On the other hand, Opportunities and Threats are those factors that are external to the person. Opportunities are those situations or people around you that may help you reach your vision while Threats are those that may hinder your fulfilling it. Following the example above, one of your strengths could be your ability to study long hours under pressure; your weaknesses could be disorder as manifested in not having a schedule and easily misplacing your things; opportunities could be organizations you are affiliated with and easy access to a study center; and threats could be the exams you have to take for several years. Knowing one’s defects will help a great deal in overcoming them and knowing one’s threats make one anticipate them and overcome them in due time. Introspection may be likened to the Review of Related Literature or RRL in a scientific paper. In an RRL, the researcher makes a review of what has been done on the particular study he wants to work on. Then he would be able to situate his current research work in a realistic way after having had a global vision of what has been done in that field. When one does personal introspection or what other people call examination of conscience in a sincere way, one gets a good picture of oneself. A disinterested guide or a spiritual director (see Chapter 4 for an article about this topic) is indispensable in making an objective assessment of one’s capabilities and defects because we have the tendency to be biased with ourselves. In an organization, the input and feedback of the adviser and all members, not just the officers, have to be taken into account.
C stands for concrete steps. After making an honest introspection, the objectives have to be translated into deeds, into concrete action! If the objectives are like the feet of the vision, “concrete steps” are like its foot gears. In order not to make nebulous actions, pattern the formulation of your concrete steps from the objectives. In a scientific paper, this may be likened to the methodology. The methodology provides concrete steps into the objectives that have been previously enumerated. It is like making the specific objectives work. If your specific objective is to enroll at the U.P. College of Medicine, how are you going to do it? You may have to study at least 3 hours everyday in order to graduate with honors in your undergraduate degree. You may have to aim for a medical aptitude test score of 99+ which means devoting part of your weekend to prepare for it. Be as concrete as you can. This part of VOICES is that which you live out daily. If you are serious with your vision, all your actions- no matter how small- have to be directed towards it. There is no such thing as a trifle because you do not have the luxury to waste time. For an organization, C would refer to you activities and the daily administration of your group. I suggest that each officer and member has a list of “concrete steps” to do and from which one could assess if he is truly working for the attainment of the group’s vision. A regular, if possible weekly, assessment of one’s performance based on one’s list of “concrete steps” will help each member of the group to grow in personal responsibility, as he would see clearly that a little negligence in his duties may mean a delay in other members’ work or a delay in the attainment of the group’s vision as a whole. On a personal level, my advice is a daily examination of one’s effort in achieving one’s goal. It does not have to be too long. Three minutes would be enough. One’s personal list of “concrete (daily) steps” would help do it fast and smoothly. This list may be reviewed much longer and it could be revised without veering away from the vision on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis.
E stands for Expected Output. It is likened to the “expected results” section of a scientific proposal. After all the experiments have been performed, what do the scientists expect to achieve? The attainment of the objectives, obviously. The modifications in the experiments would be part of the scientific paper which will be written later and hence, not part of the proposal. The same is true with our VOICES analysis. We are still making a proposal here. Whatever modification which may come our way as we live out the proposal will be a part of our “notes of experience.” In this section, just list down all the things you expect to achieve after doing your “concrete steps.” You may, for an example, write the following: summa cum laude graduate of a B.S. Biology degree; magna cum laude graduate of the U.P. College of Medicine; a fellow at MGH; etc. At the organizational level, write the achievements “you wish to attain after employing all your “concrete steps.” Each member and officer could have a list of his own expected achievements where the over all achievement of the group will be measured.
Finally, S stands for Sources of Inspiration. These are people who or institutions which serve as role models to you in achieving your vision. They could also be your sources of financial support. They could be anyone who believe in your vision and who positively influence you to move on in spite of whatever difficulties that may come your way. This may be likened to the bibliography or literature cited section of a scientific proposal. These are the sources of a scientist’s work- they could have been what inspired the scientist to start this new project, his present work could have been an offshoot of a previous paper, etc.
Now that we have outlined the VOICES analysis, start doing your own! Make an initial draft. Do not spend so much time doing it. Ask someone you trust- a spiritual director, why not- to help you assess if your VOICES is demanding enough and at the same time realistic. Do the same with your organization and ask your adviser to check your VOICES. A sample VOICES analysis form follows this chapter. Do not forget to keep a list of things to do (read “C” again) which will serve as your daily guide. It will help you as well to keep your vision always in mind and you could use to it check if you are still on the right track.