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Time to hit the refresh button on your business assumptions

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The first month of the new year is almost over, and while you may have experienced a lull during the holiday season, you're most likely back at it, geared up and moving ahead.

Now here's a question: Are you confident that the assumptions that drive your business, your organization or your work group are still valid?

Perhaps you've never taken the opportunity to examine these assumptions. Like it or not, you as an individual and the businesses you work in operate on a mass set of assumptions.

In many cases, these assumptions are maps that allow us to navigate through the challenges we face on a day-to-day basis.

They can facilitate how we take action because we have a set of assumptions and strong beliefs that guide our behavior both individually and organizationally.

Now, here is the problem. We tend to hold on dearly to our assumptions and rarely take the time to question or test their validity.

When we fail to ask ourselves if the assumptions that we hold are valid, we set a course for all sorts of potential problems.

What do you think the assumptions were at Kodak as they faced a changing technological environment by the introduction of digital photography and smartphones?

There have been numerous post-mortems on what happened, but it is safe to say that many of the assumptions that guided the company to become one of the top five most valuable brands became invalid and accelerated its demise.

There is nothing like the advent of a new year to take a moment to reflect on some of the underlying assumptions that we are using.

So, where to begin?

You might decide to start in an area such as your people practices.

¦ What assumptions do we have as to why people want to work here?

¦ We assume that our employees' No. 1 motivator is money?

Another area may be assumptions about your customers.

¦ We need to focus the greatest amount of our energy on our largest customers.

¦ Our customers are primarily interested in our service delivery.

¦ All customers are equal in our eyes.

Innovative and highly adaptive companies know the importance of constantly checking their assumptions.

Some of the most effective organizational cultures are those that embrace the practice of always holding up assumptions for scrutiny. In these cultures, meetings typically include an overt, “Let's check our assumptions about this subject or matter we're dealing with.”

Bringing assumptions into the light of day opens up possibilities that never could have been uncovered if existing thinking was the only guiding principle.

It's a new year, new opportunities, new challenges and an entire set of assumptions to be challenged.

Marianne Chester is founder and CEO of mEnterprise Solutions LLC, a strategic services consultancy based in Stroudsburg. She can be reached at 570-460-9599 or mchester@menterprisesolutions.com.

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