Pre-Mortem: Know How You Failed Before You Start

Most of us know what a post-mortem examination is, an autopsy, finding out the causes of a person’s death. Few of us, however, know what a pre-mortem is. In a pre-mortem,


project planners (maybe that’s a team or just one person) imagine that the project has already been launched and it either failed or, at least, failed to deliver as anticipated. Then, you dig into why that might have occurred.

Say you have created a new weight loss program. Before you launch it, sit down with your team and imagine that, in six months time, the program has not taken off and you’re sitting there having to look back on what could have gone wrong. Maybe your marketing was not reaching your target market. Maybe the market you focussed on was the wrong market. Maybe you weren’t clear about how it would benefit the consumer. Maybe it was launched at the wrong time of year. Maybe, maybe, maybe…

The point is to think about potential weaknesses and pre-think the solutions. By diminishing or even eliminating the weaknesses, your project will have a much greater chance at success. So, before you launch your next program or product, imagine it died and then find the reasons (and solutions) in a pre-mortem.

PS. This can also help clients succeed in their programs. Take them through a pre-mortem, find their obstacles and pre-think the solutions.