Productivity and the Trouble with Assumptions

May 4, 2012
By Joe Schaefer in Online Marketing

Never Assume Anything[This is part five in a five-part series charting Outspoken Media’s operational development process.]
I love “ah-ha!” moments. I’m fortunate enough to work in an industry where they happen all of the time. Kind of like when I find your navigation is coded in non-crawlable JavaScript and not HTML. I love those moments like they’re my own children. Well, that’s extreme, but you get the point.

When Outspoken Media started working with Shem Cohen on strategic planning, team building, and organizational development, though, I stumbled upon more “ah-ha!” moments in our daily operations. They reinvigorated my love for the industry and Outspoken Media in general. Turns out, my assumptions about productivity and working with others were false and were hindering progress, not facilitating it. This is what I learned about making assumptions.

Assumptions Crush Productivity

Assumptions are easy to come by in this industry and I believe many online marketing strategies are based on them. This is an industry-wide challenge, because misreading analytics data can quickly lead to lofty assumptions, which can derail a campaign. It’s important to minimize them as much as possible to improve productivity and show results.

During the self-discovery and team exercises, I was able to learn what is important to my coworkers regarding work processes. Knowing this makes it easier to determine when and how to approach people involved in a specific project. Now I can get the best possible results when working on a project. With motivational knowledge at my fingertips, I am able to pull actionable work and feedback from the team, which makes my process more efficient, and in the end, results in even more successful campaigns for our clients.

Assumptions Are Not Goal-Oriented

Assumptions are placed on people, whereas goals focus on the big picture. Rather than working from a set of assumptions about a person or a task, refocus on the purpose of work–both your personal purpose within an organization, and the higher purpose your client is trying to achieve. This will make it easier to come up with high-performance link building methods and a content marketing strategy that converts. It’s also more fulfilling on a personal level when you can understand the reason for something, not just that it was assigned.

Remember also that your priorities may not always be the biggest priorities for everyone else. I had to realize that the answer I wanted wasn’t always the highest priority for the client or team. I can’t take that stuff personally. Rather, I had to anticipate answer times and schedule my work accordingly. This assumption isn’t a new one that came out of the work we did with Shem, but it is one that helped me become more proactive in scheduling and management of my pieces of the project puzzle. It’s why we created the link building strategies spreadsheet, to help navigate obstacles in an organization and still get the job done.

Assumptions About Motivations Create Roadblocks

If we work with assumptions as the norm long enough, they become just that, and efficiency is lost. My first months at Outspoken were spent assuming my co-workers knew what motivated me. That was a problem. During some of the self-discovery processes with Shem, I was able to share with my coworkers the things I discovered about myself. One of my discoveries was that I need projects and processes to happen in steps with feedback. We implemented this on a large audit which we split into sections, which helped us tackle issues as they came up, not as sweeping changes at the end of the project.

If we hadn’t shared with each other our motivating factors and how we work best, we would all be making assumptions about one another and creating unnecessary roadblocks. We see assumptions every day in the workplace, and especially in SEO. An executive assumes they know what keyword they need to rank for, and agencies assumes the executive’s motives are uninformed. The truth is, both parties may be wrong and right. The executive may know his business and goals better than the agency, but the agency may better understand the obstacles to achieving those goals. Before fighting over assumptions, clarify motives. Goals can be achieved through methods that make both parties happy.

Don’t let assumptions ruin an otherwise great project or working relationship with your coworkers. Get to know their motivators and use them for good in your organization. It will make working together exciting, and the results stellar.

Embracing Your Extrovert in Business
Three Lessons for Business and Life
Aligning Keyword Strategy with Corporate Goals
Corporate Culture for Introverts

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