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My HOP Implementation Manifesto Pt. II: More on Assumptions

Welcome back my amazing HOP friends and welcome to part II of my HOP Implementation series. I wanted to continue to dive into some of my personal experiences with (and opinions on) the implementation of Human and Organizational Performance. As you we’re warned in part I, this isn't meant to be a "how to guide."   This is simply some high-level thoughts, perspective and my personal experiences.

As mentioned in part I, we must start our implementation by working on the deeply rooted assumptions within our organizations. But why? Let’s dig in. As part of our belief system, assumptions help us form judgments, find meaning, and come to conclusions about what is happening and what others are thinking. When information is missing, they help us complete our own story. These assumptions are at the root of everything else that manifests in the organization. Our corporate language, the procedures and processes we use, all of the programs that have come to be, and the behaviors we manifest comes from our shared beliefs, values and assumptions. To make real and lasting change, we must start at the origin.

So often organizations miss the mark by starting in the wrong position; skipping the first leg of the marathon and opting to start in the middle. We often start at what is visible; expressed organizational values, language and actions, exposed systems or programs, and so on.  It’s easy to see why this appears to be good place to start (we can see it), so what’s the problem with starting here – writing down and expressing our values is a good thing, changing a process for the better is good thing, saying and showing we care are good things, right?  Those are great things when manifesting organically and/or strategically from the right, or at least, better assumptions. Changing any visible thing, without working on its origin, is like building a castle on sand – it won’t be around for long and at the very best it won’t work very well.   

Example 1: Let’s circle this back to a real life example. I’m a proud parent, as many of you are as well. I maintain certain beliefs; one being that maintaining openness, truth and honesty with my children is the best way that I can keep them safe. This belief comes from my personal assumption that my children will make mistakes; that they will place themselves in stupid and dangerous situations. My partner holds a similar value set around openness and trust. These underlying assumptions and beliefs lead my partner and I to hold the shared value that anything that harms or endangers openness, honesty or trust is not good and can potentially be dangerous.  This exposed value directly influences our behavior and the complete behavior of our household. It influences the style and systems we use to communicate, it influences our reactions, it drives us to put openness and learning above perfection and consequences for anything but – we can intervene, dig into problems, and work on things quickly and effectively because we have a trusting environment in which we can communicate openly, learn and get better. 

Example 2: Now, let’s paint a different picture. Let’s assume that my core assumption around my children’s mistakes and errors is that they are simply choices – I believe that they simply choose to break rules. That assumption leads to this stance: We have rules in this house; follow them or else! In this situation, I believe that if we can just force them into compliance with the rules then their safety will be guaranteed (the flaw in that argument, along with the multiple other potential scenarios here, is for another day). Let’s also assume that my partner and I share similar visions – as with the previous example, this directly influences our behavior, the style and systems we use to communicate, it influences our reactions, and etc… just in wildly different ways. In this example our reactions are typically overreactions which leads to less and less communication, which leads to less and less learning, and ultimately results in a household culture in which openness, honesty, and “real-deal” stories are not permitted. Based on these assumptions we often create “zero tolerance” systems. 

Now let’s say [in example 2] that we recognize that things must change – that were in a not-so-great place. We usually have the “you can tell me anything” conversations; but when we are told “the anything” and our reactions remain the same, our behaviors remain the same, and nothing really changes. We notice this, so we start trying to change – and we do change. Just not for very long. We take actions on the visible systems; we have family meetings, we punish, and/or we do a plethora of other things (above the visibility line) attacking the symptoms and hoping things get better. They often do get better - but they never stay better. Why? The assumptions didn’t change. We still believe at our core that our children are messing up simply because they choose to. To get real and lasting change, we must evolve our assumptions beyond that.     

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a fan of sticking with the basics.  Getting really great at the basics is vital. With that being said, I think the assumptions that we must target right out the gate have to do with the 5 Principles of Human and Organizational Performance.

Here's some high-level thoughts on assumptions and principles: 

1. Error is Normal – I believe this is where we start; we must change or evolve our views on human error. Our assumptions must evolve to begin viewing error as normal and not as a choice.

2. Blame Fixes Nothing – As we evolve our views on human error, we naturally begin to understand that blame isn’t very useful and actually quite harmful. But, this one likes to hang on – it’s deeply rooted. We must continue to chip away at the assumptions and biases around blame.


3. Context Drives Behavior – We begin to understand that many (if not all) of our behaviors are not choices (if choice even exists – we’ll save that debate for another day) – they are driven by our environments, pressures, and the other things that surround us at any given time. Behavior is ultimately an outcome of organizational context.

4. Learning is Vital – When the above begins to change, our assumptions around learning naturally begin to follow. We begin to understand that learning is the only real weapon we have in this battle. We begin to understand and believe that anything that gets in the way of learning is bad for our organizations. 

5. How We Respond Matters – We now begin to respond differently because we understand that the way we show up when not-so-great things happen dramatically influences all of the above.  

These principles must become the new norms for the organization; that’s where we must begin. To get that right, we must target the assumptions around these principles.  The HOP philosophy is found at the bottom – deep in the roots. It’s not as easy as throwing out a list of principles; It must be cultivated and grown by evolving assumptions and challenging organizational norms.

So, what do you think? What are your thoughts? Let me know at or send me an email at

Be Sure to Check Out The HOP Nerd Podcast!

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