The Risk Recipe

Department X assumes that Department Y is doing Z to make sure that the project achieves A. Department Y expects Department X to be doing Z to make sure that the project achieves A. This all ready is starting to sound like a recipe for disaster and risk.

It’s not uncommon to have a chocolate chip cookie recipe that varies in ingredients, amounts, mixing methods, cooking temperature and time; much like it’s not uncommon to have two different departments in a company wanting the same end result but having different requirements, assumptions, and expectations.

More commonly our understanding of what a requirement, an assumption, and an expectation to a project are invariably different. So let’s look at a recipe from the aspects of requirements, assumptions, and expectations.

Requirements – Recipes require specific ingredients in certain amounts. The recipe also has instructions for how to mix together the ingredients. Recipes also require a specific cooking temperature and time.

Assumption – We assume that the recipe is written accurately from the amounts, the instructions, and the cooking time and temperature. We assume that if we follow the recipe it will result in the dish we were expecting.

Expectations – Our expectation that we will achieve the dish we set out to make is based on the requirements and the assumptions. Assuming that we followed the requirements we expect our dish to be a certain way.

The unspoken word here is risk. Risk inevitably follows these three words when there is no common understanding.

Below are examples of requirements, assumptions, and expectations as they relate to a project.

Web-based training that is 508 compliant for ABC Company

  • Requirement: The training module must be compatible with Flash 6.0.
  • Assumption: Everyone has Flash 6.0 (or compatible version) on their computers.
  • Expectation: The piece of training runs on everyone’s computer.

Web-based training that is 508 compliant for ABC Company

  • Requirement: All training for ABC Company must comply with section 508 standards.
  • Assumption: The multimedia developer is familiar with the company’s 508 compliance standards and will create alt text and d-links as required.
  • Expectation: The training is delivered with all interactions and graphics containing alt text and d-links.

The list below denotes occasions when a conversation around requirements, assumptions, and expectations are advisable:

  • When fleshing out a training goal.
  • When creating a training plan.
  • When writing a Request for Proposal (RFP).
  • When kicking off a project with a vendor.
  • When discussing a goal with your team.
  • When discussing a goal that will be shared by multiple departments/divisions.

Mitigate risk and have a perfect batch of project success more often by discussing requirements, assumptions, and expectations as part of the project kick-off (if not during project development).