The Premortem

Stress test your ideas before they launch.

The premise of a premortem is simple. Those close to adopting a new initiative—say, a strategic plan, a new compensation system, a technique for measuring profitability or streamlining workflow—are asked to imagine themselves a year hence when the initiative has failed miserably. Everyone is invited to take a few minutes writing down the reasons it failed.

The rationale is to change the dynamic from trying to avoid any issue that might disrupt harmonious agreement on the initiative to challenging people to show they’re smart by surfacing potential problems. Of course, an immediate beneficial consequence is to invite adjustments or fine-tuning to the initiative that will help increase its odds of success.  (The formality of premortems make them far more effective than the casually posed “let’s play Devil’s advocate for a few minutes.”)

Quite recently, premortems were persuasively described in Steven Johnson’s Farsighted How We Make the Decisions That Matter the Most as an effective, efficient technique to help make better decisions.

 

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Bruce MacEwen, President
Email
direct: +1.212.866.4800
mobile: .+1.212.866.2630
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Janet Stanton, Partner
Email
direct: +1.212.866.4270
New York

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