Sheilina Somani, RPP, FAPM, PMP, is the owner
of the U.K.-based consultancy Positively Project Management, a senior project manager, a
speaker and a mentor.
can help us become more resilient to comments
and reactions as individuals. For example, if a colleague is unreceptive or dismissive, we can choose
to inquire as to why the response is less than we’d
hoped for, rather than assuming we understand his
or her motivation. We then have a choice of how
to acknowledge the response:
n Exploring: Asking questions to understand his or
n Responding: Choosing to extend or redirect the
conversation, in the event that the phrasing or
timing (or both) were unfortunate
n Withdrawing: Stepping back to
consider the reasons this may
have occurred. Checking our
thinking, approach and, of course,
Working under assumptions
means we sometimes forget to be
humane in our approach and can be
taciturn or neglectful. While most
of us have to work for a living, we
generally make greater efforts and
achieve a higher level of satisfaction
if we are respected, appreciated and
valued as part of an effective team.
To quote actor Alan Alda, “Begin
challenging your assumptions. Your
assumptions are the windows on
the world. Scrub them off every
once in a while or the light won’t come in.” PM
Everyone makes assumptions—both consciously
and unconsciously—based on their past experiences.
As project managers, we predict our potential for
success or failure, and anticipate problems and solutions, based on these assumptions. The challenge for
each of us is to be aware of the many assumptions
we operate on.
Assumptions can be helpful at the outset of a project, but they require validation and calibration over
time. Only with these quality checks do we ensure
that our decision-making is as accurate as it can be.
For example, we often conduct each meeting,
each interaction, with a set of assumptions about
the people we work with. When we talk with colleagues, we assume they’re listening and available
for a conversation, interaction or meeting. We
assume they care about what they do and are ready
to get things done.
But sometimes an individual’s personal life can
create challenges for him or her in the workplace.
For example, a member of the team is frequently late
and distracted. The team member has had conversations with the line manager about being “always
late, and really not interested.” This could lead to
the project manager being curt, demanding or even
seeking disciplinary action or removal of the team
However, the individual may be addressing significant personal challenges while still seeking to maintain his or her role at work. Without taking the time
to discuss and understand, the project manager’s
assumption could lead to unnecessary action.
It’s significantly easier to adapt or change when
we are already conscious of our biases. This consciousness provides each of us permission to check
our understanding and question our stance.
Referring back to the assumptions we make
Project managers should check their assumptions
when it comes to their ability to empathize,
predict and anticipate with teams.
BY SHEILINA SOMANI, RPP, FAPM, PMP, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR