Will your Assumptions bite you in the future

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Assumption Management

Making assumptions is a key part to being human. So, assumption management in a project should not be a major leap beyond what we already do. Ironically however, project management often assume that assumptions will take care of themselves.   But the process of turning assumptions into confirmed and measured facts helps reduce uncertainty in projects. It also helps reduce risk. Document your assumptions during the definition of your project. Include a review of assumptions as part of early risk analysis, to give a solid start to your project.

Identifying Assumptions

Record Assumptions as a part of your RAID log. Anything you cannot confirm as fact should be an assumption. Record queries or questions raised by stakeholders as assumptions. Recording them ensures that these unstable foundations can be firmed up as the project progresses. Just like issues and risks assumption should have an owner and someone who will take the action to find out more; this might be the same person. A target date for action can be useful. But some assumptions may have a long life before they can be confirmed as fact and closed. Assumption management can be carried out with your risk management. Assumption management should not be a huge overhead.

Your project control documents such as a PID, Project Charter, Blueprint or Contract should reference all open assumptions and the risk to cost or timetable if the assumptions prove to be incorrect.

Qualifying Assumptions

To qualify assumptions, you need to test if they are still valid. Close any assumptions where you can confirm them as facts. Or as we learn more about the assumed detail should we create a risk because this presents more challenge to the project. Where an assumption is clearly wrong this can create an issue.  Issues have an immediate impact of time, cost and quality. Working with the project team and stakeholders to actively qualify assumptions at each stage will help minimise project risk.

Monitoring and Managing Assumptions

The only real action around an assumption is the gathering of more information.  If an assumption becomes a risk or issue take mitigating action. But the more the project team and stakeholders actively consider assumptions the better. The wider team being ready to make constructive input into project reviews will minimise the assumption list quickly. Educating those involve with the project to monitor assumptions should not be overt. Ideally the project group begin to do this naturally and see no overhead in the process.

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