Making Assumptions

My first post of 2012 is one which is very much a reflection on 2011 and also about looking forward.

One of the things I did last year which I have now firmly embedded in my approach to work and actually life in general is to never, NEVER, EVER make assumptions.

Assumptions about:

  • people – this is an obvious one really, people are unpredictable and act differently when faced with hugely challenging situations as well as other personal and professional pressures.
  • processes – there are a range of processes which are logical but most don’t actually make sense when looking at them…I have made mistakes in the past about assuming that a particular process would result in specific actions taking place – but they didn’t and unfortunately i spent some time remedying that which if I’d thought about it and checked the process then it would have saved time.
  • technology – technology amazes me, at a basic level, remote controls for TV’s still blow my mind…as do mobile phones. However we can never assume that people use technology in the same way…my use of computers, mobile phones and technology in general differs greatly from my mothers for example…I can’t and must never assume people operate the same…
  • organisations – some organisations don’t actually act as you’d expect in certain conditions, for example the restructure process last year here at the council highlighted a few things to me personally which I’d not experienced before and ultimately led to me staying with the council.

One area where all of these assumptions come together is when you start to write and share strategies, plans and projects.

Now you can create very lengthy documents which allow you to capture all the “strategic assumptions” but this isn’t always a practical approach, nor is it what your readers actually want (no assumption made here as this is based on actual feedback – shorter and clearer documents are preferred)…however it is worth capturing and highlighting the assumptions as it does avoid the unnecessary discussions about all the stuff that “isn’t written down”.

Anyway…the key point to this post is that I can’t and mustn’t assume anything and that is a key lesson which was validated through last year.

What do you think?

What assumptions do you or are you making?



5 thoughts on “Making Assumptions

  1. Carl,

    You are right when you say – “I can’t and mustn’t assume anything and that is a key lesson which was validated through last year”. BUT, an assumption is only a proposition that YOU assume to be correct. In my opinion you are completely wrong to dismiss Assumptions entirely.

    They are a completely valid tool to use, IF you clearly state and qualify the basis on which you made your assumptions. This provides the readers of your work with information with which they are able to conduct their own tests and analysis in order to test the accuracy and validity of your assumptions.

    If you have a 100% knowledge then the way forward and the correct decision to make would be obvious! (If this is the case then we do not need a strategy) However. if you do not have a 100% knowledge or certainty, (who does?), then the use of assumptions to show how you arrived at a particular conclusion is a perfectly valid process. I guess you could be knocked back by deriving only ONE conclusion rather than a selection base upon different assumptions?

    If you are not prepared to qualify your assumptions in any way how do you expect your readers to take your work and conclusions seriously? If you are worried about the amount of time and effort involved then agree the basis on which the assumptions are to be made with the stakeholders and readers of your work PRIOR to commencing the document!

    FYI Their is a whole knowledge base around assumption modelling.

    1. Thanks Roger, I had assumed that someone would pick me up on the point you made. 🙂

      I guess on a simplistic basis I was really saying that unless you state assumptions you can’t move forward effectively


  2. I agree about keeping documents short. If you can’t get your message on one page – it’s the wrong message. Put the explanation and evidence on subsequent pages – but most often they won’t be read

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