Carry out a pre-mortem . . . before it’s too late!

We are all familiar with the post-mortem. We have all seen it in movies where an investigator studies a dead body, trying to find out what caused the death. Peeling off layers in the aim of knowing more about why this person is on the slab!

From a business perspective, studying what already failed only means identifying the mistakes made, but it’s too late. . . all the time, effort & money are already spent and the post-mortem never changes the result.

A pre-mortem is different.  Pre-mortems are much more strategic and much more tactical. It means positioning your team in an assumptive state where the plan did not work out. It is an activity that identifies factors that cause the hiccups and working backwards from there. Doing a pre-mortem is like thinking of the worst-case scenario and coming up with plans to prevent it.

For example one of our clients used a pre-mortem to assess their marketing strategy and identified social media gaps in their planned campaigns. As a result they implemented steps to ensure all marketing avenues (traditional and social) were covered moving forward. Another client recently used the pre-mortem process on a recruitment project where they identified a need to look at new wording in their advertisement so they targeted the right person for the job.


The pre-mortem process is simply 5 steps.

Step 1: Select a prospective strategy. 
Step 2: Set the scene.
Step 3: Generate reasons for failure.
Step 4: Share the reasons.
Step 5: Reassess the strategic initiative.


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Benefits of using a pre-mortem include:

– Encouraging the team to think more strategically about a project.
– Creating a realistic assessment of risk, making your team cautiously informed rather than overly confident
– Getting insights from the team.
– Highlighting any concerns that might jeopardise the plan.
– Finding pre-emptive solutions to fixing future problems.
– Helping teams to worry about the right things.
– Allowing you to regularly visit your strategy and anticipate problems.
– Helps you to prepare backup plans and exit strategies.
– Increase your ability to control the results.

So look at one of your strategies and carry out a pre-mortem . . . What will you find?


Sean Martyn


@ Business By Design

Phone (02) 6658 0775