When a project goes wrong, managers will hold a ‘post-mortem’ exercise to analyse why, and to ensure that things go well next time. In contrast, the Pre-Mortem creativity technique is used before the event to anticipate problems – so that they can be prevented.
This can be perceived as ‘negative thinking’ – but on the contrary, it will help ensure a more positive outcome.
Psychologist Gary Klein invented the premortem technique. He wrote: “Unlike a typical critiquing session, in which project team members are asked what might go wrong, the premortem operates on the assumption that the ‘patient’ has died.”
Klein’s article in the Harvard Business Review, Performing a Premortem concludes: “In the end, a premortem may be the best way to circumvent any need for a painful postmortem.”
Hindsight is not just for past events! That’s the key message of this article in The Guardian about the Pre-Mortem creativity technique.
Tyler Tervooren’s article: ‘The Pre-Mortem: A Simple Technique To Save Any Project From Failure’ sets out a three-step approach to performing the pre-mortem creativity technique.
“Hope for the best but prepare for the worst” is a wise attitude to life and a common-sense way of expressing the concept that underpins the pre-mortem technique. Indeed it is consistent with Stoic philosophy, as outlined by Ryan Holiday in his excellent article ‘The Stoic Art of Negative Visualization’.