Facts and Assumptions Walk-Through

Purpose of the Walk-Through

The facts and assumptions walk-through is an optional tool that helps the student justify his or her choice of screening and evaluation criteria.

A screening criterion (SC) serves as a basis for saying whether or not a course of action (COA) meets certain minimum requirements. If we have only three months to complete whatever COA we decide to implement, then the standard "must be completed in three months or less" becomes a screening criterion. Those COAs that pass the three-month standard advance to compete with other COAs.

An evaluation criterion (EC) serves as a basis for comparing courses of action. In order to justify using an EC, the student must to be able to point to some verifiable statement (a.k.a., a fact) made by some authority that compels the student to use that EC. For example, some general tells you that we’re getting low on operational funds, so we must watch our costs. Based on that statement, we feel compelled to include cost as an EC.

· EC: Cost

· Based on FACT: The general says we’re running low on funds and asked us to watch our costs.

· Source: The General

Sometimes the EC is made on the basis of an assumption. We can use Cost as an EC because we assume the general will be concerned about the cost. Assumptions are fine, but we need to go a step further and explain the fact or facts that led us to that assumption. For example, we may know that the general is upset over skyrocketing fuel costs that are devouring our budget. Knowing this concern, we can assume that the general will want us to consider very carefully the costs of any new projects.

· EC: Cost

· Based on ASSUMPTION: We need to consider carefully the cost of this project.

· Based, in turn, on FACT: The general is very concerned about our rapidly diminishing budget.

· Source: The General

Reporting the rationale behind your choice of ECs helps the decision maker judge the soundness of your solution. It’s just like citing references in a term paper. You make assertions based on the authority of some source, and you credit and properly reference that source so that the reader can verify the soundness of your assertion. And when you need to make assumptions—to fill holes in your knowledge—you do not just pull them out of thin air. You ground them in fact, report those facts, and allow the reader/decision maker to judge for him- or herself just how sound your assumptions are.

The Tool

SquidMat’s Facts and Assumptions Walk-Through is nothing more than a text notepad that uses dialog boxes to prompt you for information. Note that you could type all the information in directly, without the dialog boxes. But the dialog boxes help guide you through the process and help place the information in the proper format.

To enter an SC, click the +SC button. The menu asks you to choose whether this SC is based on a fact or an assumption. If it’s a fact, the prompts ask you to enter that fact and then its source. If it’s based on an assumption, then you’re asked to state the assumption. Then you are prompted to enter the fact upon which that assumption is made. Then you’re asked to enter the source for that fact.

Entering ECs follows a similar procedure.

Note that the tool only asks for one supporting fact for each assumption. There are many times when your assumption will be based on several facts. For example, I am assuming that I’ll get into Harvard because

· Fact 1: I got a perfect score on my SATs (Source: my SAT report)

· Fact 2: My father gave the school a large endowment (Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education)

· Fact 3: My uncle is the dean of admissions (Source: www.harvard.edu/administration/)

To add those other two facts, you’ll have to type them in directly.

The format

The only reason you need to worry about format is if you’re going to ask the Facts and Assumptions Walk-Through tool to send the ECs to the Evaluation Criteria window (using the Transfer ECs menu button). To do that, the tool searches along the left margin for an EC short title in the form of EC <space> something. It grabs all of those and copies them to the Evaluation Criteria window. Anything else will be ignored.

So as long as the EC short titles are correct, the format of the rest of it really doesn’t matter. Again, this is an optional tool for helping you justify your choice of SCs and ECs.