A Premortem useful technique for individual creative people, or teams to build some defense around a new initiative, project, or feature.
Many people and teams hold Postmortems. To examine a project after its been complete. To learn from it, and adapt for the next projects.
A Premortem flips this idea.
The premise of the Premortem is this: Right before you begin a project, have a meeting with yourself or your team and pretend it’s near the end of that project.
- It’s is a complete disaster
- An epic failure
The literal Worst Project Ever
- It’s so bad you do not want your name associated with it.
Ask everyone to write down some potential reasons why it’s so bad.
- I like to do this with Post-its on a wall. Or something like Mural or Miro. But whatever works for you, as long as it’s visible
Read them aloud, one by one.
- Even if it’s just you, verbalizing these can be powerful.
For each ask Why did this happen?
This is more than Risk Analysis. It’s a chance for everyone to be heard, and for discovery that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. These are things that you may not want to admit, or no one on the team wants to say. These things can be painful. This technique moves them from the end of the terrible project, where it is too late and there is a lot of friction. It moves them up to the start, where you can plan, explore, or mitigate the reasons why.
A Premortem is an exercise in creativity, and storytelling. Vulnerability is at the heart of it.
For teams, you’re making sure that all the voices on your team are heard.
For yourself, you can express your fears to examine them.
You can discover things you would never think of at the end of the project.
You can think of how these uncomfortable thoughts made you feel. In your mind and body. You can learn a lot about yourself this way.
If you give this a try, I’d love to know how it worked for you.