Post-Mortems Benefit Everyone But the Dead Guy: Why You Should Pre-Mortem Your Next Project

Hat tip to the good people over at Freakonomics for an idea that can benefit everyone before you start your next project: The pre-mortem.

In an interview for the Freakonomics podcast, Gary Klein, a cognitive psychologist who specializes in decision making, recommends talking about what could go wrong before the project starts.

How do you do it? The process Klein describes in his interview  is pretty simple.

1) Ahead of the project launch, gather project participants in a room.

2) Have the participants imagine that it's the conclusion of the project and things have gone horribly. So horribly, in fact, discussion of the project is a huge taboo. Team members don't even make eye contact with each other as they walk down the hall.

3) Have the participants write down everything that went wrong. Keep a time limit. 

4) Aggregate and discuss responses.

The real benefit? Reducing overconfidence before the start of a project. Klein feels that people are usually too confident about a project before they begin.

You can listen to Mr. Klein describe the process himself on the Freakonomics podcast. The part of the podcast featuring his interview begins at 20:02.

In the meantime, start planning your next pre-mortem today. Although everyone benefits from a post-mortem as well, it's important to remember that it's everyone except the dead guy.

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