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ProTip: You Know What They Say About Assumptions

Michelle Nitchie / Oct 1, 2015 10:00:00 AM

Don't assume anything.  Just because something worked before doesn't mean it's working now.  You can't rely on what once was.  You have to deal with the here and now.

- Tabatha Coffey, Own It!

We all know what everyone says about assumptions (or, at least, I assume we do). And yet we still find ourselves in disbelief when a common procedure suddenly fails on us.  Even worse, we often don't realize it has failed because we are assuming that something that has worked that long will surely follow its own inertia and work forever.  How very wrong we are.

When we assume the way we're doing a task, whether big or small, will continue to work as efficiently and effectively as it always has provided we follow the same time-tested steps, we are forgetting that the world rarely stays the same: you may be doing the same things, but the ground has shifted under your feet.  That is the lesson Tabatha Coffey is trying to teach us.

So what does this mean for us?  It doesn't mean we should become paranoid or perpetually afraid of change, but that we need to take a two simple ideas to heart:

  1. All processes, procedures, and standards need to be periodically spot checked and tested.  You should have a quality assurance program in place not only to ensure that you and your team and consistently delivering these items following the current expectations, but that those expectations are still the best they can be for the job as it stands today.
  2. When we find something suddenly stops working, skip being surprised and go straight to finding the answer.  It can be easy to waste initial time reacting to the situation with skepticism - assuming something like "surely this form still works.  It's been used thousands of times before; it must be user error" can prevent us from assessing the situation accurately.  Take a quick step back and a deep breath and brainstorm all of the potential causes before you begin to assess them one by one.  There will be plenty of time for surprise later.


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Topics: Being Attentive, Quality Assurance, Analysis, Innovation

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