What is a Premortem workshop?

This workshop tactic gets you to think about all the ways that your project might go wrong, so you can effectively plan to stop it from happening.

We are very good at repeating mistakes. By running this tactic at the beginning of a project, you can highlight things that might slow you down or stop you later on.

What’s the worst that could happen? Now’s the time to figure that out.

You’ll need to Theme Sort with this tactic. Afterwards, consider using Who, What, When to put a clear plan of action together.

Premortem Miro Template

How to run a Premortem workshop

1. To begin, brief the room on the current plan for the project you are about to embark on. If there isn’t a plan, consider using Sticky Steps beforehand.

2. Inform the room that you have leapt forward in time and you’ve found the project has failed spectacularly.

3. On sticky notes, ask the participants to independently write every reason they can think of for the failure.

4. One by one, ask each participant to stick their prospective 'failures' up on the wall and briefly talk about each one.

5. Group similar or duplicate reasons with Theme Sort. It’s best to do this as you go.

6. Map the themes on an Assumption Map.

7. Create a plan to:

a) mitigate your riskiest and most certain reasons.

b) investigate your riskiest and uncertain reasons.

Tip: frame your reasons into How Might We... questions to get everyone into problem-solving mode.

8. Assign responsibility to carry out actions after the session with Who, What, When.

Origin: Gary Klein, 2007

Not sure if this is the right approach for your team at the moment? Try a different evaluation tactic. Then, prioritise ideas or problems using a decision-making tactic.

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Premortem is one of 54 workshop recipe cards inside the Workshop Tactics card deck.

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