Funny thing about assumptions — we hardly ever question them. If fact, we usually don’t even know they exist. We often develop our assumptions from a limited set of data and then we act against them. But as we grow in experience and wisdom we rarely refine them — especially if there is a group that has the same assumptions.
The social pressure for us to keep and work off the same assumptions is too great. The group keeps us in line.
Yet, to grow, we need to challenge our assumptions just like all the other companies that have made significant changes. It is very possible that we will come up with the same assumptions in the end.
I made this video because I am constantly hearing these assumptions. And they are limiting your company’s potential.
1) Giving up control results in chaos.
It depends what we are giving up control of. A kite? Then the answer is yes — chaos reigns. The question isn’t “should I give up control,” but rather, “Do I hold the appropriate level of control?” This question often leads business leaders to one of two realizations.
1) They hold much control.
2) They don’t hold as much control as they think they do.
If you hold too much control you are limiting the potential of your business. If you don’t hold as much as you think you do, you are being ineffective.
2) Internal change must happen slowly.
What — Like a layoff? Or a new CEO change of direction? Or a complete revamp of a product line?
No, internal change does not need to happen slowly. Too often leaders feel that to create internal culture change it needs to happen slowly.
Granted, some change should be slow, but not all need to. It can’t be a blanket statement. Buck the status quo next time and say, “What if we were able to do this by next week? Is it possible? What would the ramifications be?” Sometimes everyone is waiting for the change but management red tape is getting in the way.
3) FAILURE — Do all you can to avoid it.
I have given full keynotes on this topic but I will keep this short. Suffice it to say that not all failure are equal. Some are necessary to success. Others are catostrophic.
Some organizations say “Failure is not an option.” Not only is it an option, but it is a reality — a necessary reality. So how do you deal with the failure? Are your employees so afraid of failure that they can’t do their best work?
(Before you answer that, ask them. I think you’d be surprised.)
4) If it’s worked in the past, why change it?
Anyone who has read the Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen knows how dangerous this thinking is.
This is an odd one, however. There is a difference between practice and theory. Theoretically I think we all understand this. But when the theory hits practicality, I’ve seen too many people hang on to the past and keep doing what they always have been doing. I’ve been guilty of it myself.
One of my favorite thoughts is, “What has brought you to this point has been good, but it’s not what you need to get where you want to go.”
5) You can’t manage without a manager.
Now here is a controversial subject. Much has been written on the subject of flat or hierarchical-less organizations and I won’t try to duplicate that here.
But let me try to change the way we might think about this one. Here is an exercise I want you to do: Ask yourself this series of three questions: “What does a manager do?” Then after each answer ask yourself, “Why do they do that?” Once you have each WHY down, ask, “Can that be done a different way?”
You will suddenly realize that there are often better ways of accomplishing what you want to accomplish than by using a manager.
6) Employees are resistant to change.
Give your employees an extra week of vacation starting today and see how hard it will be to change the policy and have them accept it. Ya, that’s what I thought.
We get caught up in the nice cliches that limit our ability to act.
This is what I want you do to. Next time you hear someone utter that phrase and they are serious, give them the vacation scenario above. Then, instead of assuming, find out what characteristics of the vacation scenario makes it easy for the employees to change and build the same philosophy in the new change.
Pretty soon I bet you will come up with ways to make the change that you weren’t going to do palatable, even easy for the employees.
How do you get others to adopt your program / software / initiative / new way of thinking? Use the Adoption Index.
7) We need policies for vacation / sick / travel.
Actually, it is very possible you don’t. I have seen plenty of companies totally get rid of these policies.
Now, what is so great about this is not so much that there isn’t a policy, but that they are weeding out the unnecessary. They are pruning off the branches of the business that keep people from focusing on the things that matter most.
Think about it. The more policies you have, the more rules employees follow, the more they are doing things that don’t focus on areas they can bring the most value.
Sure, there are exceptions, but think about that: What policies, rules, guidelines could you prune?
8) Working anywhere other than the office decreases productivity.
Again, this has been written about so many times. Many companies have shed this thinking, but a surprising number of companies still hold on to it.
I watched one company say, “We know you want to work from home so we are going to do a trial. If you want to work from home for a day, you need your manager’s approval who will get their manager’s approval. Then you will write a report when you return describing what you accomplished that day.”
Guess how many people took them up on the offer? Almost zero. Then what did management say? “We offered it, you didn’t take us up on it, I guess you guys really don’t want it, do you?”
9) People are our greatest asset.
Please understand this:
People are not an asset.
You can’t own people. They can’t be sold. They have unlimited potential.
Assets you can own and can sell. They have a relatively set value and potential.
Once we start treating people as agents to act and not only to be acted upon, we will realize the potential that has been hiding in plain sight.
10) Every project must have a clear ROI.
The purpose of viaPing is to help 10 million people love their work. Where is the value in that?! We are currently working on a project that may not have any ROI but we are still doing it.
Because we feel it is the right thing to do and it will add value to others.
Companies need to make money to survive. I get it. But sometimes the value is not only in $$, but there is intrinsic value we need to not only recognize, but nurture.
One of my favorite stories is from the guys at Crew telling their story about Unsplash. They created it because they felt is was the right thing to do.
Which of the 10 assumptions does your team struggle with?
Use the bonus material that accompanies this video to start conversations with your team. Get the discussions started so you can identify what needs to change and then make some awesome changes.
(This is a longer version of a post on viaPing’s blog.)