When I began the ‘think like a project manager’ theme, I was talking about a particular client who had an issue with installations taking much longer than they should. I narrowed it down to to main causes. The first and most significant was that the expectations set by the sale staff were somewhat rosier than reality. The second was that implementers making the transition from ‘doing’ to ‘managing’ were making assumptions, based on their experience about how and when things should happen.
If money is the root of all evil, then assumptions are a close second. I remember my first ever university class. It was the autumn of 1981. The class was Ph101 (Physics) at the University of Queensland. The lecturer was Victor Metchnick, a larger-than-life character, obviously passionate about physics and teaching. He wrote on the whiteboard:
A S S U M E
In a booming voice he announced with the projection and vaguely the same accent as Hitler, “In my class you will never assume because…”. He began underlining, “when you assume you make an ass out of u and me”. So it is with project management. Assumption is the mother of all evil.
If you are a carpenter then you probably have a good idea of how to build a bench. You would have a pretty good idea, if you were building the bench, of how long it would take, what tools you would need and what it would look like when completed. If you task someone else to build a bench then how long it takes, what tools are needed and what it will ultimately look like will depend on the knowledge and experience of the carpenter tasked with the job and not yours. If your timelines and budgets are based on how you would do it then you will come unstuck quite quickly.
The consequences of assuming how your sponsors are going to react are even more spectacular. In both cases, don’t assume, ask; and of course keep a record of the response, either in meeting minutes or a simple email ‘confirming’ the discussion you’ve just had.