Organizations can be very slow to change direction when priorities change. In this post, I’ll explain why assumptions are preventing your teams from delivering on a new plan, and how you can work to clear up some of those assumptions.

The familiar situation

You’ve done the legwork. You researched your customers, competitors, and the market, to inform your company strategy.

You’ve evaluated the opportunities. You stretched your thinking, went broad, and you didn’t condemn any ideas as “bad”.

You’ve then prioritized ruthlessly. You made it clear what the critical few company goals are.

And you’ve communicated the new plan clearly. The teams all got on board without much hesitation. Now they are ready to execute.

But something went wrong… Weeks and months go by and you realize that the teams are still doing basically the same work that they did previously.

Why has nothing changed? Why has your perfect strategy failed?

To answer these questions, let’s introduce the concepts of assumed constraints and assumed exceptions.

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Assumed constraints

Assumed Constraints are beliefs based on past experiences that prevent the consideration of potential solutions. They result from cultural norms and past guidance from leaders. Let’s look at some assumed constraints that may be holding your team back.

Here are some examples of cultural norms:

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