Most people are familiar with post-mortems. This is an analysis of a project after it has failed to avoid similar failures. A pre-mortem is intended to get the benefits of a post-mortem before the failure so that we can avoid failure. It intends to identify the risks a new project or product might face. We anticipate what might go wrong to avoid them and achieve success.

By anticipating challenges to our work, we can avoid the waste they might create. Of course, there is the danger that we may anticipate risks that are not real. But it is better to identify a possible risk and discard it than never to see the risk in the first place.

We must always keep in mind Edgar Schein’s maxim, “we don’t think and talk about what we see; we see what we are able to think and talk about.”

Pre-mortems take just an hour or two yet can safe a significant amount of time.


The attitude many have about just jumping in and not preparing for the start of a new project or product development is usually not an effective one. 


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