What Are Your Assumptions?

We all have assumptions. I recently flew on JetBlue. They are beta-testing their wi-fi. I assumed I would have to pay for it. Imagine my surprise when it was free! I was thrilled. (There was no wi-fi on the return trip, and that was fine with me.)

When I teach my agile and lean project delivery workshop, many people and teams assume they cannot deliver a feature in one hour. Often, they are surprised by what they can do in an hour. (I ask them to pair and/or swarm over one small feature. Then, I ask them what it would take to make all the features like that one.)

We challenge our assumptions all the time. Sometimes, we are happy with our results. Sometimes, not so much. We grow and change when we challenge our assumptions. We see new possibilities. 

Sometimes, our mental models prevent us from challenging our assumptions. Our models prevent us from seeing possibilities.

The more assumptions we have: “this is the way it must be” or “it could never work this way” the less capable we are at discovering possibilities or solving our problems.

What do assumptions have in common?

Often, they use words such as must, never, or always. They tend to be rules of some variety—rules we have found useful up until now. These rules may be outdated for our current context or circumstance.

My original assumption was “airlines always charge for wi-fi.” I was happy to be wrong. I’m flying JetBlue next week and I am anticipating the trip. I will be happy if there is free wi-fi, and happy if there is none. If there is paid wi-fi, I won’t use it. There is nothing I need wi-fi for on that trip.

When people assume they cannot break their stories into smaller chunks of value, they shortchange themselves. They haven’t been able to break their stories into something smaller up until now. If they think about their work differently, who knows what they can do?

Do your assumptions prevent you from using the growth mindset? Mine do. I’m working on those assumptions.

Dear adaptable problem solvers, that is the question this week: What are your assumptions? You might be surprised to see them.

2 thoughts on “What Are Your Assumptions?

  1. Wes Williams

    In my experience, mostly with my own assumptions, I find many judgement type words are based on assumptions. Words/statements like It/you should, it/you shouldn’t are based on my assumptions and opinions yet I state them as a rule.

    1. johanna Post author

      Wes, the absolutes are often rules for us and show our underlying assumptions. Thanks for helping me think through this better.

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