Ready for an Assumption Hunt?

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Once you’ve begun the process of performing a system checkup you’ll probably find yourself running up against some issues that seem like they’re set in stone.  Insurmountable.  When you get to there, you will need to go on what Gary Hamel calls an assumption hunt.  Why?  Assumptions can kill off any change initiative…even before it begins.

In When Growth Stalls, a really helpful article over at HBR, authors Olson, Van Bever, and Verry share some powerful ideas about how and why to examine your assumptions.  Here are two keys:

  • Leaders must bring the underlying assumptions that drive company strategy into line with the changes in the external environment.
  • Assumptions that a team has held the longest or the most deeply are the most likely to be its undoing.

Insightful and a little frightening.  Think about your deepest held assumptions.  Now just imagine if that actually leads to the undoing of your organization.

That is the point of an assumption hunt.

How to do an assumption hunt:

  1. Pick out a big problem (like disciple-making, life-change, etc.)
  2. Assemble 10 to 20 participants (staff or volunteer)
  3. Have each of them write down 10 things they believe about the problem (use post-its)
  4. Stick notes on the wall, grouping similar beliefs together
  5. If a belief seems ungroupable, stick it off to the side.
  6. Focus on commonly held assumptions.
  7. Ask, “Which of these assumptions deserves to be challenged—which beliefs reflect a reality they wish could be otherwise?”
  8. Ask, “Can you think of counterexamples to the assumption?”  If no, move on to the next question.
  9. Ask, “Why?”  (and keep asking “why?”)  (From The Future of Management, by Gary Hamel.

See where this could go? 


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