Assumption Articulation

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Alternative names: 
Surfacing Assumptions
Level of process: 
Method category: 
Intent or purpose: 
To bring to awareness assumption being made about the situation in a problem solving process and to check the validity of assumptions being made in a problems making process. Assumptions that are not valid can be dropped or changed.
Used as component of: 
Any Planning Process
Types of Participants: 
Recommended size of group: 
Optimal amount of time needed: 
1 - 3 hours depending on the skill of the group and the difficulty of the problem.
Usual or Expected Outcomes: 
Two lists of assumptions: those that will be used and those that will be changed or discarted.
Level of participation: 
Potential Pitfalls: 
Ignoring or leaving unexamined basic assumptions
Level of Difficulty to Facilitate: 
Facilitation skills required
Setting and Materials: 
Flipcharts, markers, tables set in small teams.

1. Bringing to awareness the assumptions about the problems and the situation in which the problem operates is an often overlooked but important process in the problem solving process.
2. Assumptions are always present and necessary.
-- a. They set limits on the problem and potential solutions.
-- b. They reflect operating values,
-- c. They simplify the problem.
3. Assumptions are self-imposed and not imposed by the situation.
4. Once assumptions are articulated then we can ask each assumption; “Is it necessary?” “Is it appropriate?”

Surfacing Assumptions
5. Write out a clear and as detailed as possible statement of the problem.
6. Write the focus question in the centre of a flipchart paper.
-- a. List all the aspects of the problem.
-- b. List all the constrains caused by the problem.
7. (1) Ask individuals to list 10 assumptions that we are making about the problem.
8. Put up all of the unique assumptions on a white board or flipchart paper.
9. (2) Put up the list on the last page (see below). You can have the group create their own list. Ask if this reminds us of any other assumptions that should be examined. Put these on the flipchart of assumptions.
10. (3) Look at the focused question, its aspects and constraints. List assumptions being made with them.
Examining Assumptions
11. Assign groups to examine the assumptions:
-- a. Write out the assumption as a sentence.
-- b. Ask is this assumption needed to do the project?
-- c. Ask if it is not necessary is it suitable?
-- d. Prepare a report to he larger group.
12. Have groups report their conclusions.
13. Discuss particularly those that are being recommended to be changed.

There are 3 separate ways of surfacing assumptions in this workshop. Marked (1), (2) and (3).

Take the list of types of assumptions in the download and make a flipchart of it.

How flexible is the process?: 
Follow-Up Required: 
The problem solving process.
File attachments: 
Robert Harris
License Model: 
Free (or unattributable)