How to run a Pre-Mortem to increase the chances of success for your new initiative

If you’re about to launch a new initiative or make a significant change, there is probably some associated risk and stress. Sometimes this leads people to avoid making changes and retreat to safety. A great way to overcome this that we frequently use at Inventium, particularly when launching a new product or HR initiative, is to run a Pre-Mortem. A Pre-Mortem is designed to identify ways the initiative could fail upfront and enable you to mitigate them proactively.

Aim

To identify and prepare for issues before they happen and dramatically increase the chances of your initiative succeeding.

Resources

  • A collaborative shared spreadsheet (e.g. Google Sheets)
  • A facilitator
  • An idea or initiative you are thinking of launching

Method

  1. Ask your team to reflect on this question: Imagine that we implemented X [the initiative/idea] and in 12 months, it was a massive failure. Why might this have been so?
  2. Ask them to write down their answers in a shared spreadsheet.
  3. The facilitator should cluster similar answers into themed groups.
  4. Synchronously or asynchronously workshop all the possible problems with your team to proactively find solutions to mitigate them.
    1. EXAMPLE: When introducing the FDW, we uncovered through our Pre-Mortem that team members feared the loss of collaboration and team bonding. Therefore, we decided that we would all take the same day off. If we took off different days, we felt it might impede our ability to meet as an entire business and lead to some people feeling disconnected.

Outcome

Not only is this a risk-mitigation strategy, but co-creating the solutions is vital for gaining buy-in for your new initiative. While people are often reluctant to vocalise their reservations around projects, a Pre-Mortem makes it safe and helps people overcome their concerns. Research has also found that prospective hindsight – imagining that an event has already occurred – increases the ability to correctly identify reasons for future outcomes by 30%.