Conduct Effective Premortems for Teams

We often spend time reviewing how a project went AFTER it is done, often called a post-mortem. What if we reversed the process to prepare more thoroughly BEFORE we even begin?

Daniel Kahneman, the brilliant psychologist and author of books like Thinking Fast, and Slow, recommends a wonderfully simple technique that teams can use when they are about to embark on a large project or decision.

Here is How It Works…

  1. Call a team meeting and divide the team into 2 groups: the success group and the failure group. 
  2. Have each group member work independently to imagine and then describe the narrative. The reasons why the project/decision was a disaster or a raging success. The more storytelling, the better.
  3. Encourage diplomacy to be thrown out the window. For example, a disaster outcome could include “a key fictional person serving in a critical role was in over their head on understanding how to do a task” without actually naming a team member.
  4. Have both teams share their stories and identify what might need to change with the plan or decision process to improve the chances of the success stories or mitigate risks identified in the disaster stories.

Why are premortems so effective?

Premortems are a safe and easy method to surface obstacles or considerations before wheels go into motion. You can save time and avoid challenges or even come up with creative ideas that may have been missed.

About the Author: Leigh Ann Rodgers, Founder of Better Teams and the Forward, community, is an IAF Certified Professional Facilitator with 20 years of experience in the human development field. Leigh Ann is a skilled meeting facilitator, trainer, and coach working across the globe to help leaders cultivate teams that are happy and high-performing.

Learn. Share. Practice. Move FORWARD.  Join the Better Teams community, FORWARD, to network and grow with some of the most experienced professionals in the field of team building and facilitation.  LEARN MORE

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