Having a Pre-mortem

February 16th, 2016 by Patricia Jehle Leave a reply »

Previewing a funeral


I learned something new this week: it’s called a pre-mortem or prospective hindsight. The idea is to see something in the future, a project, a business idea, a relationship, … and then think about think about two things. In two years’ time what might have caused the demise of the, let’s say business idea, to fail and what might have cause it to succeed. Put a team on each question and let them brainstorm. You can then report back to the whole group and hopefully find even more reasons for demise and/or success of the idea.


What the experts say: According to the Harvard Business Review, “Although many project teams engage in prelaunch risk analysis, the pre-mortem’s prospective hindsight approach offers benefits that other methods don’t. Indeed, the pre-mortem doesn’t just help teams to identify potential problems early on. It also reduces the kind of damn-the-torpedoes attitude often assumed by people who are overinvested in a project.” https://hbr.org/2007/09/performing-a-project-premortem


So how can you apply this in your life? Think of something new- a hobby, a project, a new job, whatever. Then sit down with a coach or a trusted friend and think about all the things that might cause this thing to fail. Write it down. Then talk about all the things that might cause the thing to succeed and write that down, too. Then pick a few things on each list to work on that seem like deal breakers.


So, you want to start a business. You have all the finances in place, the idea and business plan down and you want to “go public”. I suggest you do a pre-mortem first, and this time with a coach, not your spouse or best friend. You may find that it is too early to start, or you may find a serious flaw in your plan. Or you may find two or three things to focus on that will prevent your start-up from failing.


But you don’t want to start a business? You can still use this model for about anything new. Why not try it our now? I think I will tonight with a friend at work regarding a class we both teach.


Tell me if you tried it and tell me if it worked for you.


Patricia Jehle www.jehle-coaching.com


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