The Role of Premortem in Project Management

The Role of Premortem in Project Management

There’s a new project on the table, and the office is abuzz with excitement.

You know the drill. Team members chime in with enthusiasm about the great potential this project holds, from increased customer satisfaction to new revenue streams. Brainstorming results in a list of positive ideas with each suggestion triggering a new, more improved offering. 

Perhaps the last vision you want to conjure up at this magical infancy stage is the project’s crushing failure.

But doing just that can provide creative and surprising insight resulting in revisions that can ultimately lead to increased success.

In traditional office culture, no one wants to be ‘negative Nelly’ but, when done in a measured way, critical thinking is an important element of growth. The next time you open up the floor to an idea and nothing but sunshine and rainbows come flowing in, try a new approach. Ask everyone to imagine the project has failed miserably, and have each team member offer one possible reason why. Giving them the freedom and encouragement to voice their doubts can result in a surprisingly helpful list of potential downfalls to avoid.

Open this door in an encouraging way, and watch the ideas come flowing in about what could go wrong. And more importantly, all the ideas about how to circumvent these pitfalls

  • We spent too much money on development.
  • We took too long to develop it.
  • We rushed the timetable and provided an inferior product.
  • The lead designer quit.
  • We overestimated the need for this service.
  • We didn’t market it properly.

An effective premortem can successfully identify reasons a project may fail, allowing you to avoid those mistakes in the first place, giving your idea a better chance for a long and successful life.