Why are you making assumptions?

The famous saying goes: when you assume, you make an ass out of u and me.

I have not encountered one person who did not make any assumptions. At school, kids assumed things about other kids. “I bet Rachel’s dad is like that”. Teachers, themselves, assumed things about kids. “That child has probably been spoiled his whole life”. Adults, well, we are pretty bad.

It doesn’t stop at the work place, people still continue to assume. But at what cost?

I remember having a team where the developer went off to write the code without asking any questions to anyone, completed it, and when QA tested it , it flat out failed. It didn’t meet the requirement. Why? Because the dev made an assumption. In this case, it costs us several days, the dev had to redo his work and QA had to retest. 
(Note that a backlog refinement session can help address this.)

Now what if the Product Owner defined a series of user stories based on a wrong assumption? It would cost more than just several days.

As a Scrum Master, help the team understand the impact of making an assumption, and encourage them to make it a habit to validate (as much as possible). Use the backlog refinement session to ask LOTS of questions. You can ask each team member (especially the quiet ones) if they have additional questions, if everything is clear. Encourage the team to speak. Remind them: it is OKAY to ask. 

Pay attention. Here are some cues when someone might be making an assumption:

  • it’s probably like that
  • I think that’s what it was
  • maybe this is what they mean

And as a Scrum Master, don’t forget, you too shouldn’t make assumptions!

Actually, none of us should make assumptions.

One of the books that had an impact in my life and which I strongly recommend is :
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom” by Don Miguel Ruiz.

 and one of the agreements is :


When you think about it , it does make sense. Look back at all the times you made the wrong assumptions, what did that cost you, what was the consequence, who did it hurt?

What good is there in making an assumption?

How difficult is it to validate the assumption?

How difficult is it to move ahead without making assumptions?

Thing of all the times when you had an assumption, validated it, and worked with the right facts? Didn’t that feel good? Weren’t you relieved that you had validated it first?

Practice this daily: notice when you are making an assumption and validate if it’s true. You’ll start seeing things in a whole new light.

Why work with fiction when you can work with facts?