Challenging Assumptions

What are Assumptions?

Assumptions are uncertain factors that may be beyond your direct control – External conditions must exist for logic validation. Assumptions are Everywhere and are dangerous. Every project and plan rests on assumptions.

Assumptions extend Logic thinking, from If -Then To If-And-Then for example: 
If you smile then they will smile back 
If you smile And Nothing is wrong Then they will smile back


“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”
― Isaac Asimov


    1. Identify
      1. What are we assuming? What must we assume? 
      2. How must the world cooperate with us? 
      3. What else must happen for this to succeed? 
      4. What conditions must exist?
      5. What are the potential deal-breakers that could seriously harm?
    2. Analyze and test: Try to assess the degree of risk – Probability percentage. Create a rating system
      1. If assumption fails, what’s the effect? diminish? delay? destroy? 
      2. How do we know?
      3. How important is this assumption for success? What are the odds? 
    3. Validate and act on them: manage what you can and beef up defenses
      1. Is it a reasonable risk?
      2. To what extent can we control? monitor? influence? nudge? 
      3. what are the ways to influence? 
      4. Is someone else responsible for this assumption?
      5. What are the backup plans? what are the just-in-case plans?
      6. How can we re-design the plan to moot this assumption? 

Assumptions always exist, try to make them explicit – prevent the “Whoops” symptom.

Express your assumptions as a positive condition and make them specific. 
Such as: {One more drink won’t hurt, We don’t need to examine assumptions nothing can go wrong! , The Vp of finance and marketing will both allocate 50k by September}



Control Assumptions:

  • Do-Nothing: As is. Accept the consequences
  • Add more tasks and create new projects
  • Change the whole design – Add outcome/ Input activities


Possible Categories:

  • Team members
  • Technical issues
  • Resource management/Availability
  • Political climate
  • External related projects

Assumptions can also perform other functions, such as provide diplomatic conversation starters or provide reference points.

Inspired by Strategic Project Management


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