how to do a premortem

How to Do a Premortem

We’re big fans of the premortem here at GlitchPath. We love it so much that we’re building software to help you incorporate the premortem into your everyday life.

What’s a premortem? Quite simply it’s a one-step process that helps you beat failure. Before you do anything, ask yourself, “How will this fail?”

My team is building a premortem that helps you beat failure at work, but you could also apply the concept to your personal life. Are you planning a wedding? Thinking about going back to school? Want to buy a new car?

Ask yourself how you’ll fail. You might still fail, but at least you’ll see it coming. Here’s how to do a premortem.

See the Tiny Steps Toward Catastrophic Failure

The premortem is an awesome tool to help organizations mitigate risk and avoid catastrophic losses. But sometimes it’s the microfailures — in small, day-to-day interactions between individuals, teams and departments — that bleed a company dry.

Want an example of a microfailure? I’m thinking about the guy in accounting who sabotages projects before they start. Or the woman in procurement who constantly interrupts you and never lets you finish a thought in your meetings. And how about the hiring manager who opens the same requisition over and over again because he can’t keep anybody on his team for more than 18 months?

Microfailures won’t kill a project outright, but collectively they poison the well of productivity. The premortem is an excellent tool to help you see big-picture problems and prevent catastrophic failure, but it can also be used to address team-related issues that sabotage success before you even start.

Identify and Act Against the Universal Forces of Failure

Doing a premortem is the easy part. Anybody can conceptualize failure and list glitches and microfailures in 90 seconds. The hard part is doing something about it.

At GlitchPath, we believe that your premortem results can be parsed into 10 distinct areas of risk. We call those categories the “universal forces of failure,” which are the known and, sometimes, unknown reasons that doom a project to failure.

Our online premortem helps team leaders categorize their results into distinct sections: budget, commitment, communication, competency, conflict, expectations, politics, scope, team and time.

We’ll give you a failure report, just like a credit report, that shows you where you’re about to fail and why. From there you can adjust your plans in Basecamp, Trello, Asana and Slack. Or you can ignore the report and remain in denial. It’s up to you.

The Premortem Is Here to Stay

The premortem is the ultimate enterprise earworm. Once you hear about it you’ll never be able to forget it. You’ll needlessly stumble through a project and wonder why you didn’t have the foresight to do a premortem at the start.

Nobody wants to be a Debbie Downer, but when given a confidential platform, people will become ruthlessly honest to beat failure. That’s what the GlitchPath premortem is all about.

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