When we attempt to solve a problem, build a business or get a team to perform we begin with certain assumptions. There are basically two types of assumptions that we start with. There are assumptions that we choose to make based on our understanding of a market or a situation and there are assumptions that we make that we are unaware of. We need to constantly test the assumptions we choose to make and we need to make ourselves more aware of the assumptions we are not aware that we are making.
Assumptions are a necessary starting point but they are not static and need to be revisited, tested, questioned, discarded, modified and validated. Let start with the easier group, the set of assumptions that we conscientiously make. Let’s assume you have a new product or offering. You’ll need to know something about the size of the market, about the potential buyers, competitors in the space, alternatives to your offering, etc. In order to be able to manage the variables you will make some assumptions. The problem is a week later, a month later or after you’ve been exposed to new information or experiences we rarely go back and modify our initial assumptions. The results? Flawed projections about expected results,flawed estimates of the resources needed to go to market; unrealistic timelines, the list is endless. You can’t build a logical strategy on faulty assumptions. I’d suggest every time you learn something new relative to your project you force yourself and your team to ask, “based on this new information are there changes that we need to make to our original assumptions”? Chances are the answer will be a resounding yes and those changes will be apparent.
But what about assumptions we make subconsciously? This is much more difficult. After all how can we possibly know what they are? We can bring them to light by questioning them. For example when you delegate something to someone do you assume they are competent and capable of executing the task or do you assume that you’ll need to closely check what they do and remind them when it’s due? The answer to that question will certainly reveal some assumptions you make about people and it impacts your management style and the way you collaborate with others. What I would advocate is to look at certain behaviors you have which manifest themselves in the way you organize projects and delegate to others. What assumptions have been made and are they in fact valid.
The assumptions that we can easily see can be modified and adjusted as reality or experience show us that they are no longer valid or helpful. You need to make this a part of the process.
The assumptions that we can’t easily see require us to be much more thoughtful and to question not only their helpfulness but where they came from so that we are aware of them. If you can make yourself and your team more aware of the fact that they are making assumptions every day that impact their ability to operate effectively and that they don’t realize they are even making those assumptions it can have a profound impact on creativity and productivity.
Agree? Disagree? Please share your thoughts and reactions.