When we think about team building, trust-based exercises and singing Kumbaya by the fire come to mind.
However, at the beginning of a project, assumptions analysis can also be a very useful method of eliminating expectation gaps down the road.
Assumptions analysis is normally thought of in the context of estimates, constraints or solution approach but it can be extended to any aspect of the project where we have to bridge uncertainty gaps.
One of the biggest areas of uncertainty relates to the interactions within the team. Until the team has progressed through the storming and norming phases, expectation gaps and misunderstandings can be a frequent source of conflict.
Given this, it may be worth considering apply assumptions analysis to the team itself.
In a session led by an independent, unbiased facilitator, team members are asked to anonymously write down three to five assumptions about each other, the overall team and their roles. Once those assumptions have been submitted, the facilitator will affinity group them and provide an opportunity for the team as a whole to review and absorb them.
The team or role-level ones could be discussed as a group followed by action planning as the next logical step. This could be the first step towards team self-management.
For sensitivity reasons, the assumptions made about individual team members may not lend themselves to group discussion but might help to increase the awareness of some team members towards how they are being perceived and to address those concerns.
This is not for the faint of heart – the magnifying glass is shining on us, and not on the project. But facilitated well, it could be a powerful step towards forging a team identity based on trust and mutual understanding.