Assumption is the Mother of all F***ups

Angela’s husband is a change expert and has written this article which translates into the personal change journey as much as it does a leadership one..

Well worth a read…

Assumption is the mother of all f*** ups..

This is one of my favourite movie quotes. It comes from a pretty average film ‘Under Siege 2’, probably not one many have watched. In the film, one of the henchmen presumes the hero is dead and is challenged by his boss – ‘Did you see the body?’ when he says he didn’t but there was blood everywhere, the boss utters these immortal words.

And how right was he? Spot on in my view and they could easily have been talking about what happens day in, day out. For me, it’s particularly evident in the world of change and improvement and stems from many different types of assumptions being made leading to a less than ideal results.
These assumptions can all be avoided by taking simple and effective steps. The challenge is always to put the steps in place. So, what are the assumptions that I have found most common when delivering improvement and change?

Number one on my hit-list is the assumption we are all talking about getting to the same place

Comments like ‘ I’m not sure where this is heading’, ‘I don’t know what this all means for me’, ‘the manager gave us a presentation on it but I can’t remember too much’ can be all too common from the outset. Even at senior level, while it’s a challenge to ensure everyone understands and can fully articulate the direction and why we are heading there, it’s absolutely critical.

So, what can we do better as agents of change and improvement to remove the room for f*** ups? For me, two things:
i) Create a tangible and meaning vision and clear direction for everyone. That’s not one size fits all but a tailored approach to the audience. Better still, have a two-way dialogue and encourage them to share what they think
ii) Communicate often and in different ways, people will think and reflect (and forget) so keep checking in and reminding them of where you want to get to. Mix up how you do it; informal chats in the workplace, small groups, large groups, sometimes to listen and learn, others to remind and re-emphasise messages.

Coming in at number two, the assumption we all really want to go there
Most projects, programmes or improvement initiatives start either with an intention to make things better or are based on a good idea. In most organisations it is unusual to get open challenge to a new project or programme or even introducing proposed changes or improvements particularly once someone supports the idea. To raise an alternative view introduces the potential for conflict which we tend to have a desire to avoid, this can be particularly evident when things ‘come from the top’. Equally, I’m sure we’ve all heard the classic phrase ‘turkeys voting for Christmas’ and it comes to mind, front and centre here. Add this to the belief that most people dislike change and we have a recipe to lose buy in. Often what’s worst is that it’s not shared or encouraged, and it can create ‘saboteurs’ who actively or passively disrupt the change.

To tackle this, I suggest two things:
i) Understand what is important to those involved and the impact on them. Use