A few years ago, an old manager reached out to me and asked if I would consider switching to his team at Amazon. I loved working with this manager but I was going up for promotion and didn’t want to take a risk by switching before that went through. He mentioned that the position may not be there when I was ready and to let him know when I decided.

I made a pro / con list and still couldn’t make a decision, so I mentioned my concerns to him. He recommended I take a piece of paper and divide it into quadrants. Then, use each quadrant to describe the best and worst cases for the short and long terms of making each decision.

Quadrant Test Diagram

He then said, once you’ve written down the cases, evaluate how happy you think you’d be if that happened for each quadrant, and label it from 1-10. Here’s what a (partial) view of my decision then looked like:

Staying Put

Stay Diagram

Switching Teams

Switch Diagram

After I went through the exercise, I had a clear answer about what I should do. Taking an average between the best / worst cases for both paths, it seemed like I would be happier to make a change than to stay and potentially make it later.

Now that I’m a few years down the line from that decision, I’m glad I made it when I did. Going through the exercise helped me to acknowledge the risks and the potential rewards.

I shared this process to a colleague who was making a difficult decision and they asked for a reference. I couldn’t find one, so now there’s a reference! I hope you find this helpful if you need to make a difficult decision.