Fundamental Assumptions

A rich man wants to build an elaborate house some new property he just purchased on the beach.  He contacts a builder, shows him the design, and wants it done post haste.  The builder agrees, collaborates with the owner over several meetings, and together they develop a timeline to get the job done and meet the owners time demands.  Just before the builder starts construction, an engineer friend stops by and asks the builder what he is doing.  The builder explains the importance of the project and the need to get it done quickly.  The engineer acknowledges the importance, but cautions to make sure there is a proper foundation to support the home.  The builder is sure there is since the owner bought the property and had to have it surveyed, inspected, etc.  Besides, plans were already in place, and time is of the essence since the owner does not have the patience for any delays – after all, he says, the customer is always right.  The builder completes the house and it looks fabulous.

A few months later, the first minor storm of the season hits the area.  The force of the waves and current suck the sand out from under the house and it crumbles.  The owner is furious.  He contacts the builder asking how this could have happened; how this was missed.  The builder says all he did was build to the plan and meet the timing demands of the owner.  Besides, he believed the owner had it all taken care of, so how could he be responsible.  To which the owner replied – that’s what I paid you for….

How many times does this happen?  We need to get a project done because the customer has told us how important it is to complete, we collaborate to develop timelines, resource allocations, etc., we brush over foundational items because they don’t seem relative at the time and should be in place, and, if brought to our attention, rationalize it away that it must be there, and we don’t have the time to effectively start over – the customer wants it now.  But what if the customer (and team) is wrong?  What if the basis of their assumptions is flawed?

Did they check their fundamental assumptions in an honest and objective way?  The importance of verifying assumptions fundamental to the success of our project cannot be overlooked, and is critical to the success of any project.  Don’t assume, verify.

Let me know your thoughts!


One thought on “Fundamental Assumptions

  1. Glenn,

    check your yahoo email, I sent you a response there also.

    To me, agency theory questions are always difficult. The smart-ass version of this is the man who goes to a psychologist and asks how much it costs, to which the psychologist replies: “How much psychosis can you afford to have?”

    Rich men have a problem. How can they distinguish between who is doing valuable due diligence and who is stealing their money? There are many people selling snake oil, environmental research and analysis. How do you know what is required and what is thievery?

    Additionally, there are many people who do not know that they are lying. They think they are selling value, when they are actually selling snake oil. These people are very earnest, industrious and convincing.

    Then there are people who are selling value. The difficulty is that, they are almost always aware that there is an “insurance” aspect to what they’re selling.

    However, business being business, you sell what customers want to buy. You may know the area better and you may know which details are important with much greater specificity than the rich man who’s paying. But then there’s Mom’s old line: “He who pays the piper calls the tune.”

    How you create an arrangement where rich men, who are not savvy in a particular area where they need to invest and workers, who are savvy, but not rich, work together effectively is fiendishly complicated.

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