Larval Assumptions = Grown-up Threats


I have blogged several times on the subject of how assumptions are the larval form of risk (particularly threats).  Whatever judgements you make about the scenario of your project (or for that matter, your business) are actually pre-statements of risk identification.

For example, if you are managing a project that involves a lot of business between the USA and France, and you assume the value of the Euro to the dollar is stable, that is an assumption.  If you acknowledge the fact that the dollar may rise or fall relative to the Euro (and are aware of the implications of that fall or rise) then you have identified a potential risk.  Of course, it’s up to you to record that risk (or assumption) consciously in your project documents.

The point is: any assumption you make should be recorded.  And you should watch them – because they may grow, perhaps like that plant in “Little Shop of Horrors” to become a huge project threat.

I’d like to jump from the Project level to the Planet level for a moment, to expand your thinking.

A front-page story in today’s Cape Cod Times is – literally – a Fish Story.  It’s about how the warming trend of the Atlantic Ocean has caused 50% of the adult fish species in the Northeastern US waters are relocating to cooler waters north and further offshore, as the Cape Cod waters warm.  This is a known, confirmed, scientific fact.  What is ‘newsy’ here is that up until now, there was not much known about how the larvae of the fish have adapted.  Would they stay?  Or will they also move northwards and outwards?  A new study, referenced in the story, revealed that the larvae as well have moved offshore, and/or have changed patterns in terms of their emergence in response to warming ocean temperatures.

This obviously has changed the scenario for the fish.  But any business involved in fishing or overseeing fishing, should be aware that assumptions about fish staying put in the context of ocean warming could be missing out on facts that, in turn, drive business decisions.

A quote from the article says, “Overall, these changes may make some species less productive and scientists may need to re-evaluate population goals used in fishery management.”

So in this case we literally see assumptions as the larval stage of threats.

It’s another direct connection between sustainability thinking and project management.

They aren’t always so direct and literal, but in this case, the “fish story” can teach us quite directly.