A postmortem is an examination performed on a dead body to find the cause of death. In business, a premortem (a phrase coined by Gary Klein) is an examination performed on a project which hypothetically died (failed).
A typical premortem session is performed as follows:
- Your team is informed that Project X has been hypothetically implemented and it has failed. For example, you've implemented a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system and 6 months after completion, the sales team refuses to use it.
- The Project Leader then asks the team to write down the reason(s) why the CRM project hypothetically failed. For example, one reason could be that there was no buy-in upfront from the sales team.
- A list of reasons for the project's hypothetical failure is then compiled.
- The Project Leader then works with the team to find ways to prevent (or preempt) each specific 'forecasted failure'. For example, If there was no buy-in from the sales team, a preventative move might be to add a highly respected salesperson onto the implementation team.
A premortem is a method for forecasting failure and then working backward to prevent the failure from happening in the first place. The end goal is to reduce a company's project failure rate.
How would YOU implement this tactic in your company or business?