Look in the Mirror and Question those Assumptions – Debbie Nicol

This week’s post is from our regular contributor Debbie Nicol, Managing Director of Dubai-based ‘business en motion’, and creator and author of the ‘embers of the world’ series, is passionate about change. She works with both traditional and contemporary toolkits that move businesses and executive leaders ahead, whilst working on leader and organizational development, strategic change and corporate cultures.

‘Because my fry-pan was always too small to fit the whole fish in’, exclaimed the great-grandmother when questioned why she habitually removed a fish head and tail before frying! For how many more generations would the cooking method have remained the same if not for that question! And so too, our organizations – how many of the processes, procedures, rules and regulations exist today in the workplace simply because no-one has ever revisited them, questioned them or measured their effectiveness? Could the changing world’s priorities be the best impetus for us to start questioning assumptions:


Priority no 1On demand results! The data, the process, the answer, the resource, the place to ‘go to’, the access must all be available now!

So how does the business’s organizational design allow for the information to flow quickly and seamlessly, being available on demand? How do the systems, both manual and automated, remove blockages? How does the structure empower access and self-initiated action?

Take Jodie, the support staff who needs to compile the monthly report. Does she still need to await return phone calls for answers about this month’s data? Or is she pulling from a central knowledge bank, regardless of the managers availability. Take Kumar, the section head preparing for the conference. Does he have to go to four places on the intranet to make changes to the presentation, or is he now working on an internet and permission-based automated slide share for instant updating, and access to all.

Does the process map of your business flow align with what the world needs now?

Question your systems and processes against the benchmark of on-demand results. What pace do we achieve and what pace do our stakeholders need?


Priority no. 2 – convenience! Convenience at finger-tips, available anywhere, anytime, existing in any format and working across all systems. Compatibility reigns in today’s business world, and when so, the level of ease increases. Inconvenience makes business ‘too hard’ with customers walking away, unwilling to invest the time (given Priority no. 1)

Take Mary, the mother of two who is business-savvy, disciplined with timing and able to achieve work-life balance. Are the procedures she works with conveniently available 24 /7? Take the average Joe customer who prioritizes family yet needs your product – is there an alternative path to access your product without him investing time in travel, parking and locating the product on shelves?

Can our customer do business from where and when he wishes, or must he follow our rules? Can the investors access information readily? Can the people do their job easily, with a focus on deliverables? Question your systems and processes against the benchmark of convenience. Does opportunity remain for us to ‘get out of the way of others’ to use our service?


Priority no.3 – Service! Evolved leaders understand the days of entitlement have succumbed to the concept of leadership by service, and service to all equally. Leading a business involves connecting with users and enablers, providing service to them in line with their needs.

Take the average internet user, who needs a ‘user-pays’ IT service for 3 months only, and not buy into a one-year contract! Is the corporate leadership serving that need? Take the average employee who does the job day in, day out. Is the corporate leadership hearing their feedback? Could it be that even those without titles may have great ideas? Glassdoor.com now encourages you to work in an open and transparent way!

Question your leadership against today’s expectations. What do you believe you achieve is no longer relevant. Leading without followers is like a stroll in the park – they both get us nowhere!

Assumptions are deep-rooted beliefs that started somewhere at sometime. They took hold and can be referred to as our company’s ‘institutionalized’ way! Is it time to even question that with a reflection of just how many institutions are falling today?