Assumptions – Asking the Obvious

test assumptions

Testing assumptions makes you look stupid or misinformed.

“You can be perfectly clear and perfectly wrong.”
Karen Martin, “The Outstanding Organization.”

Assumptions are unquestioned “truths.” Everyone knows the answer to the obvious. Why don’t you?

Assumptions create false confidence by preventing obvious questions.

Unquestioned assumptions
ultimately distill into malaise.

Finding clarity is simple. Ask obvious questions that probe assumptions. In other words, ask questions that make you look dumb.

Asking the obvious:

Successful leaders persistently challenge assumptions with simple questions. Four questions enable organizational clarity. Don’t assume the answers are obvious.

  1. Who is your external customer?
  2. What value do you deliver to that customer?
  3. Who, in your company, delivers that value?
  4. How do they deliver that value?

Bonus: How do you communicate your value to current customers?

Clarity concerning customers:

Karen suggests asking:

  1. Who do you serve?
  2. How do they make money?
  3. What problem are you solving for them?
  4. Why do they choose your company…?
  5. How do they use the goods or services you provide?

Clarity concerning value:

“Hallmark may produce greeting cards, but its value lies in helping people communicate a feeling….” Karen Martin.

Conversations that distinguish value from product enlighten organizations to their purpose. Karen says shifting from product to value reflects a shift in perspective.

  • Product question: “What do we make?”
  • Value question: “What do they get?”

Others explain your value. You can’t.

Clarity through conversation:

Karen suggests conversations produce clarity. When was the last time you sat with a customer to get to know them?

Clarity through failure:

A client of mine lost a client, recently. Rather than writing them off, they met with them to explore what went wrong. The value they didn’t deliver explains the value they must deliver. (Assuming that client is one they want to serve.)

Read chapter one of Karen’s book: “The Outstanding Organization.” Absolutely no obligation or email required.

How have you seen or experienced the danger of assumptions?

How can leaders uncover assumptions and create clarity?

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