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Pre-Mortem

Pre-Mortem

Many of our plays have a positive and energetic focus on project success. Maintaining energy is important, but avoiding doubt and negativity can cause blind spots. The Pre-Mortem gives teams an opportunity to be productively negative.

In many ways, this play is the opposite of Stories of Success.

Negative photo of dinosaurs
Preparing for success by exploring the ways that failure could happen.

Step 1: Imagine the project failed

Instead of asking what life will be like when a project succeeds, the Pre-Mortem asks teams to imagine it is launch day and the project is a failure. Begin by asking the team to imagine what factors lead to this failure.

post it notes
Step 2: Brainstorm the factors that led to a failure

Using a A Post-up, ask the team to brainstorm a list of possible ways the project could fail. Or you can break a large team into smaller groups to discuss their ideas about project failure, and ask each group to give a mini-presentation to the larger group on how the failure happened. 

Step 3: Sort and Identify Threats to Success

Use a sorting technique like Cloud Grouping or Titrate Up to determine the largest threats to project success. By naming these threats at the beginning of a project, the team has a shared understanding of what to look out for and can make plans to mitigate any risks to success. 

Use the artifacts produced to help generate an attitude of defiance toward failure in the project team.