Project Managers Who Make Assumptions, Don’t Last.

Project Managers Who Make Assumptions, Don’t Last.

Project Managers out there, this is an homage to one of the biggest mistakes in our universe, from which almost all others stem. The simple truth is that project managers who make general day-to-day assumptions, don’t last. Really it’s just workplace Darwinism at it’s finest.

Assumptions come in all shapes and sizes.

From assuming that because something “isn’t your job” you shouldn’t be responsible for it, to giving your team deadlines and not checking in on them along the way, up to assuming that your busy boss actually read your 4:59pm email, you can be sure that one day your assumptions will get the better of you.

One thing is true though, continuing to make assumptions that work crossing your desk, or conversations that go un-recapped, will neatly wrap themselves up and live up to the expectations of management and clients – well, that’s a sure-fire way… to be surely fired. Lets be clear though, this doesn’t include those more official assumptions you’re supposed to state in your risks documentation.

Before we talk about solutions, here’s just one scenario in which assumptions lead to downfall:

You receive a PDF proof of the latest piece, which you meticulously review and inspect – in fact, you have 2 proofreaders review it as well. You know you’ve done your job to the best of your ability and you sleep soundly. When the samples arrive for your records, after already going to print, you disregard them because after all you had two proofreaders review it and final approval from the client!

Later, it comes to your attention that Side A printed on both sides, instead of Side A + Side B.

Because you made the assumption the samples matched the PDF proof, this one is your fault. Subsequently, you cost the company lots of money in reprints and had some very uncomfortable conversations with your boss.

The assumption? Because the PDF proof was correct, the print would be. The reality? Murphy’s Law is very real.

So no, it’s really not your job to make sure the printers do their jobs correctly, but when you have the chance to catch a mistake and you don’t – then the onus really does fall on you.


A few closing tips, to avoid the pitfalls of assumptions:

  1. This is probably the biggest one: don’t assume that because you have set up an internal review, or deadline, that the team is actively contributing. Be sure to check in casually or formally the day before the review so that expectations are met and time isn’t wasted.
  2. If an email, call, comment, or message goes unresponded – don’t make any assumptions that it was received, at all. Period.
  3. If a piece of work crosses your desk, don’t assume that you’re not on the Quality Control Squad. Read it, review it, and raise questions where necessary to show that you’ve thought through what you’re doing and what’s in front of you.
  4. Clients can be fickle, so don’t assume that they remember anything they’ve agreed to. Send recap emails and make sure that you’re heard. See #1 about making sure you get a response. Unanswered is not the same as “received, read and understood.”
  5. Never assume that clients understand what is and isn’t their fault, especially when it affects schedules and estimates. As soon as schedules adjust, raise flags and make sure that you have the effect of the adjustment determined, as well as how it happened so you can brief the client on the “why.”