Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Conduct a Premortem

We’ve all seen the TV docs do a postmortem to figure out why and how a victim died so the NCIS detectives can catch the bad guy.  A lot of organizations will conduct a postmortem after a big event or project has concluded to do an evaluation (though I prefer an After Action Review, since I hope no one died while implementing the project).

Research has demonstrated that “prospective hindsight” – imagining that an event has already occurred – increases the ability to correctly identify reasons for future outcomes by 30%.*  Therefore, some organizations conduct a “premortem” to identify potential problems before implementing a project.

To conduct a “premortem” ask your team to imagine:

“If this project ends up having some breakdowns, what would you guess those might be?” 

This gives people license to play a sort of brainstorm guessing game without the pressure of being labeled as a negative thinker.

A premortem is a good discipline to add to the end of your planning process to identify possible hidden problems lurking around the corner.  It also helps slow the process down just a bit in case the team (or more especially some excited leaders) are going a bit too fast.

There is no way to predict every possible problem that can occur when implementing a project, but the premortem provide a chance to avoid some challenges and allow the organization to make even more of a Mission Impact.

*Performing a Project Premortem, Gary Klein, Harvard Business Review, September, 2007.


For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at www.SheehanNonprofitConsulting.com   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

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