by Folake Oluwole
Assumption is a delusion that impedes the culture-building process in any growing organization or society, including my country of Nigeria. The things we take or accept as true, ideal or acceptable, to a large extent, influence our thoughts, opinions and invariably our actions.
Culture building in any organization is fundamental. However, to build a common culture requires having the same set of core values. Now the question is: “How do we bring together people of diverse culture, background, beliefs, assumptions and attitude to share and identify a set of common values, culture and vision?”
A person’s identity is shaped by three main components:
* Our association
* Our socialization
* Our education
As leaders and organizational coaches we need to understand and appreciate that we are dealing with people of diverse cultures, backgrounds, attitudes, expectations (professionally and personally), intentions and personalities. Based on various experiences of the individual, assumptions are drawn, decisions are taken and attitudes formed.
To break into this self-made “cocoon” requires a whole lot more than impressive management qualifications, skills or training. Rather, it requires more intuitive abilities, genuine curiosity about people, and strong listening skills.
I am a local consultant and an organizational coach for an agency of the government in Lagos, Nigeria, and I have witnessed firsthand this sin of assumption.
My first day impression and assessment of the organization, i.e., the agency, was that of “lofty structural framework but shoddy implementation” which is a direct function of the mindset and orientation of the employees.
Walking into the main office and through the various units, I could feel and see the heavy presence of a typical busy office environment which is usually identified by brisk movements and footsteps across the office, young, smartly-dressed ladies and gentlemen, and inspirational inscriptions that adorned the walls, boards and tables.
One thing was very clear; they were all working harder and longer but not smarter and better. Why? The assumption here is that any job related to the government or civil service need not be taken so seriously. It is “just a job” not THE job. Job security is not an issue or threat as civil service is the most stable form of regular employment. In spite of the low pay, the civil service does not have staff retention issues as employees in this sector hold on tenaciously to their jobs with the logical assumption that if the pay is steady, eventually, it will grow.
While the belief is that employee assessment or appraisal cannot be objective as growth in civil service is highly political and not related to performance or skill, this idea is highly debatable. Thankfully, the recent changes and trends in the Lagos State Administration have challenged this notion.
Under the current administration of a learned, professional lawyer with a strong vision and mission to transform and reform the state, many assumptions are being challenged. This re-orientation of the citizens and residents is blowing a wind of change in the thoughts and minds of all people, in particular those in the labour market.
Some examples are that minimum standard entry requirement has been increased to a university or H.N.D. degree. As a result, more competent hands are being poached from the corporate world to run the affairs of the strategic business units of the government and its related bodies, such as consultants and management specialists, and the civil service now wears a new face.
To confirm these progressive and significant changes in the administration, one only needs to look at the results: improved, structured and better managed transport system in the city, a greener and cleaner environment, improved compliance to traffic rules, and so on.
Assumptions not properly channelled can often times be counterproductive and portend grave danger; we see the “business as usual syndrome” instead of growth, positive changes or results. The only solution is to see assumptions for what they truly are: feelings, beliefs or opinions that have yet to be scrutinized, clarified and proven. Till then, assumption is not to be taken as the real thing.
Folake Oluwole is a corporate and career coach and is the managing partner of GTD LTD (i.e. GETTING THINGS DONE), a consulting firm based in Lagos, Nigeria. She connects with people and organizations to inculcate a passion for the vision of the organization. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.