Working Assumptions and Constraints

Micro Learning Unit

Every project is subject either to clear constraints that affect it at both the planning and execution stages or to ambiguous conditions, in which case some assumptions must be made in order to enable the project to proceed.

For example, a project might operate under the working assumption that the existing infrastructure will be used in new project development, too. Were this assumption to prove false, the entire plan would be invalid and the project would have to be approached from an entirely different direction. All working assumptions must be clearly documented in the Project Compass and agreed upon by all stakeholders.

If there are several assumptions for the project, each of which may dictate different conditions for the execution of the project and / or its results, it is important to perform analysis and planning according to the alternatives arising from those assumptions as a basis for making informed decisions before project approval.

Such working assumptions could refer to constraints on time, resources, money, business, organization, environment, infrastructure, security, etc. A constraint does just that: forces us to act or refrain from acting in certain ways, provided the constraint is valid and certain. It is, therefore, necessary to identify these working assumptions as early as possible and work them into the project planning process.

Common constraints in projects:

  • Constraints related to the product / service developed as part of the project such as: production cost, retail price, standard requirements, compliance with terms of use and more.
  • Resource constraints (HR, materials, equipment, locations, money). For example: The lab is unavailable during the month of July.
  • Time constraints such as: A particular time in which the project or a certain activity in the project should start or end.