Assumptions: do to build team confidence

“To assume is to make an ass out of you and me”, a manager once told me. Because assumptions are bad, I was taught years ago. But can making assumptions also help us in our agile work practice?
Door: Basile Lemaire op December 3 2020.
Read in: 2 minutes.

Making assumptions is super fast and often happens unconsciously. We do it because - at least in the short term - it leads to a sense of time savings and comfort: conversations are shorter, you don't need to know all the details, and you can avoid confrontation.

During my NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) training I learned that there is also another side to assumptions. There is nothing in itself to make assumptions, as long as they are positive. The more positive assumptions you have, the easier it is to deal with unexpected circumstances.

NLP is based on assumptions. These presuppositions are not factual truths. They are assumptions we make for our attitude towards others. An example of such an NLP premise:

"The map is not the area."

The map of the Netherlands is not the Netherlands itself. In other words, the words we use are not the event they represent. This also applies to behavior that you as an agile coach observe in your teams. Each team member has his or her own, individual map of the world. No map of the world is more 'real' or 'true' than other maps. It helps to realize that people respond based on their own map, their own perception of reality.

"There is no failure, only feedback."

This second example of an NLP presupposition is a warm bath of recognition for agilists. Failure or making mistakes are labels that can be quite destructive. You can therefore choose to assume that “mistakes” give us new information, give us the opportunity to learn. Or, like the core principles of agile tell us: 'You should learn to fail and create a culture that learns from failure.'

Working with presuppositions, and learning to use them in your coaching practice, is also part of block 1 of our training NLP for Agile Coaches. The NLP assumptions produce a different effect than average assumptions. We create a positive, open image of the other in advance. Because of this positive and constructive approach, you (as an agile coach) can offer more confidence and space, instead of distrust or limitations.

Written by Basile Lemaire

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