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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Fatal Assumption

You can trigger a lively discussion any time you’d like by inviting a group of Project Managers to list the most pervasive, frequent and damaging problems at fault when Projects aren’t going well.

Everybody you ask has been most often or most recently burned by one or more of the worst difficulties that engulf a busy, complex, multidependent innovation, especially one that inconveniences or irritates a lot of people.

People have little trouble identifying the problems they’re wrestling with. Ask, though, about the most dangerous assumption a project manager can make, and there tends to be a thoughtful (puzzled?) pause. Action-oriented, go-to, problem-solving overachievers don’t spend a lot of reflective time on such matters. Nor analytical time, either. But those assumptions underlie most, if not all, of the decisions that respond to the perceived problems.

That’s why so many Project Managers spend endless hours in exhausting, low-return, repetitious effort that diverts them from more important concerns.

Assumptions are NOT inconsequential. Assumptions are those “truths,” often unexamined, that control our actions and the priority judgments that drive our actions. The Project Manager entering into a new Project carries with him/her a variety of expectations about the work, the situation, the process, the problems and the people.

Those are assumptions. And one of them is the most dangerous of all. And too often it seems to be the most common.

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