Premortem Your Plans And Projects


Recently I was dipping into ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahneman; it’s an interesting but full read, coming in at over 500 pages.

Skimming through, I came across the idea of ‘(project) premortems’. I’m very familiar with project postmortems (and their variations), which take place after a project has finished. The hope being that insights and learning may arise that will be helpful in the future. Premortems, on the other hand, take place at the very beginning!

Here’s a summary of the idea by Gary Klein:

A premortem is the hypothetical opposite of a postmortem. A postmortem in a medical setting allows health professionals and the family to learn what caused a patient’s death. Everyone benefits except, of course, the patient. A premortem in a business setting comes at the beginning of a project rather than the end, so that the project can be improved rather than autopsied. Unlike a typical critiquing session, in which project team members are asked what might go wrong, the premortem operates on the assumption that the “patient” has died, and so asks what did go wrong. The team members’ task is to generate plausible reasons for the project’s failure.

I was especially interested in the idea as it links to, although is different from, the idea of Discovery Driven Planning discussed earlier.

As a fresh way of communicating outputs, there’s an interesting post here that uses sketchnoting (see picture above).

Picture credit: here.

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