How do Assumptions Impact the Project and Team Performance?

Anna Majowska
4 min readApr 5, 2023
A manager sits in front of a laptop.

When planning a new project, it’s impossible to know all the variables ahead of time. For that reason, assumptions are an essential part of project management, as they allow teams to create reliable frameworks for their efforts. The expectations integrated into the project planning include events or conditions they believe will occur during the venture life cycle. Conjectures are made regarding resources, cost, schedule, quality, or technology. However, taking such educated guesses carries some inherent risks and therefore needs to be based on experience. What does this process usually involve then?

Identifying the Project Needs

Project managers ask themselves what factors they believe to be true about the planned work outcome. It is done through brainstorming sessions or by analyzing previous projects to find common assumptions. It’s valuable to be mindful of personal biases when making these observations and involve other stakeholders in the process to get the broadest picture of the objectives.

The typical project planning areas that require conjectures are:

  • Resources: the team’s character and size, including the required number of manhours.
  • Cost: the total budget required to complete the objective, ideally including any difficulties possible to foresee.
  • Schedule: how long will the undertaking take to complete? Can you define any milestones to break down work into smaller chunks and support better distribution among team members? What are the factors that are most likely to cause delays? Are there ready-made solutions to mitigate them?
  • Quality: how will you measure the desired quality level of the project result? It’s imperative to decide on a metric to measure the results and to make the expectations achievable and realistic.
  • Technology: what software, hardware, and other resources will the team utilize during the project? Are they available to the team at the start of work? Does the team know how to use them?
  • Location: where will the project completion take place? Will work happen on-site, or are all team members remote? Do you need office space? If so, has it been arranged ahead of time?

Notably, all of the above areas of project assumptions are strongly interconnected. For example, a failure in resource allocation predictions, causing a specific specialist to be unavailable to work on the project at the required time, will cause the endeavor to delay or even decrease in quality. Hence, the various types of conjecture made for the project must align perfectly.

A team is discussing something at a table.

Managing Assumptions

While actively running the project, it’s essential to regularly review and update the already-made assumptions as new information surfaces. The fundamental function of a project manager is to rectify initial incorrect assumptions as early in the project as possible. Also, assumptions, and their changes, should be skillfully documented and communicated to relevant stakeholders. All involved parties need to be flexible and ready to adjust assumptions to keep the project made of a host of moving parts on point.

Assumptions vs. Risks

Although project assumptions and risks are closely related, they are not the same. Risks are events or conditions of a high level of uncertainty, which could potentially harm the project, while assumptions are expected events that have a lower level of uncertainty. It is vital to distinguish between the two and accurately identify key project risks, as they are tied to the exactness of your assumptions.

Using Assumptions to Your Advantage

Project assumptions are necessary for project managers, but they require careful management. They allow managers to create a framework for the project and make informed decisions, reducing the likelihood of unexpected events and helping to keep the project on track.

A female manager is on a call while viewing performance metrics.

Structured Management of Project Assumptions

Kanban Tool is a powerful and easy-to-use project management service with real-time collaboration features and time tracking. It allows project managers to keep track of multiple projects in one place, making their jobs more straightforward and — crucially — serving as an invaluable, reliable spot for maintaining and developing project assumptions for future projects!

It could be argued, that setting a new project’s requirements is the most demanding aspect of a project manager’s work — its success does hang in the balance between the expectations and results. Careful planning and experience, familiarity with the team’s skills, access to the best technology, and the team’s past performance analysis will all be invaluable in making the project successful.

The article was originally published on the Kanban Tool Blog.

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