Ever start down a planning road, get pretty far down it, and then add a team member to the discussion only to find that what you’ve assumed as how-it-will-work is not at all what they’re assuming?  It happens to all of us, whether we’re talking about strategy at work…or planning how we’ll spend an unexpected windfall at home.  Am I right?

What can be done about the difference of opinion?  The first thing that should be done is to clarify assumptions at the very beginning.  As part of the initial steps you’ll want to declare what you’re assuming to be true about how your plan will work out.  If you’re part of a team, that can be an interesting exercise.  Also, if you’re part of a team, you’ll need to make it safe to challenge assumptions in that opening discussion.  If you don’t make it safe your team members with a different idea will only store that different idea up for later.  They won’t automatically adopt your assumption set.

The second thing that needs to happen is that you’ll want to continue to test assumptions along the way.  Be on the lookout for evidence that either supports or refutes the assumptions in your plan.  Rather than blindly following a strategy, if you realize along the way that something you assumed was incorrect you’ll need to incorporate that new reality into your thinking.

Last, when you add a new team member it is very appropriate to bring them up to speed on the thinking that informs your planning process.

Need a for instance?  Here’s one from a discussion yesterday.

In a discussion about how to continue to develop leaders of teams I mentioned that I believe that less than 10% of all people have the ability to "self-initiate" change.  What I mean by that is that most people need someone to spur them on.  Most people need someone to help them get started or keep going.  That’s an assumption that I have about developing leaders of teams.  Why is that important?  It’s important because it makes me build into my plan the idea that if I want the leaders of teams to continue to grow and develop I’ll need to provide some level of coaching that will help 9 out of 10 of our team leaders.

Does that mean that the leaders will want someone coaching them?  No.  What it means is that they’ll need coaching.  In fact, another assumption is that most of them won’t want to be coached.  So our system will need to incorporate the assumptions that 90% of our team leaders will need help in order to develop and they won’t seek it out on their own.  We’ll have to develop a strategy that will connect them with a coach in a way that they’ll see as value-added.

Assumptions