facts vs assumptions

separate the facts from the assumptions, stair devided

Tip 2, Week 2: Separate the facts from the Assumptions


Last week in the tips on decision making series, we looked at gut-feel and how acknowledging it is an important part of decision making.  This week Trent Moy from Halide looks at how to separate facts from assumptions.

Tip 2, Week 2: Separate the facts from the assumptions in decision making

It sounds like an obvious thing to want our decisions to be based on facts rather than just assumptions.  But when you look at why jobs take longer than expected, business plans don’t go to plan, and misunderstandings happen with customers, it’s often because assumptions have been made in the decision making process.

Assumptions are powerful because they simplify the decision making process.  In some cases, making an assumption, or set of assumptions, might be a very sensible thing to do.  Some examples may be assuming the way your competitors price a piece of work or their final tender bid, assuming the expected working life of a particular piece of equipment, or making assumptions of how many wet weather days to allow in a contract.

The trick with using assumptions is to clearly ‘label’ the assumptions as assumptions.  In this way we won’t confuse them with facts.  The facts are unlikely to be completely wrong or to change, but my assumptions are less certain – I have to remain open to those assumptions being wrong or being corrected by better information down the track.  Ideally, I have to be on the lookout for how I can improve my assumptions.  And I need to be aware of the way in which customers, suppliers, staff, subbies and other people all have their own sets of assumptions.

So the problem is not assumptions, but: (a) half-baked assumptions, (b) assumptions dressed up to look like ‘unquestionable’ facts, (c) two people using different sets of assumptions.

Here’s a tip: Get a bit of paper and draw a line down the middle.  On one side of the line write down ‘facts’ and why you know that it is a fact.  On the other side, write down the ‘assumptions’ and whether it is an assumption that needs to be double-checked.

In decision making, it can help if you can work with somebody else on this.  Get them to write down what they see as the facts and assumptions too, and then compare notes.

You might be surprised at how much light this can shed on a complex decision you have to make.

Want more info on facts vs assumptions in the decision making process, email Trent trent.moy@halide.com.au or comment below.  For more great tips, stay tuned for Tip 3 next week.

About Trent Moy

Trent Moy, the founding Principal of Halide is a business consultant that specialises in decision making and leadership skills.  He is an independent adviser on ethics and on how businesses can achieve better social and environmental outcomes. Trent has over 25 years of expertise in senior management roles, ethics and building motivating cultures.


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