A premortem is a great way to help mitigate bad outcomes on a project. It helps project teams identify risks and put actions in place to avoid them from the start.
How to run a premortem workshop
Allow half an hour. You’ll need a few pens, some post-its of different colours, some wall space, and of course, some willing participants.
First, ask the team to think about what’s happened in 12 months time, (you can adjust the duration to match your project or product roadmap). then imagine if everything that could’ve gone wrong has gone wrong. Give them about five minutes, and ask them to map all of the things they can think of onto the wall, explaining as they go along. Assign a note-taker to capture any salient points.
Once they’ve done that, start mapping them into themes. If you can, group the items and give each theme a heading, such as people or processes or systems or ways of working. This will really help later on.
Next work through each of the post-its, ask the team to think of ways to mitigate these bad outcomes and stick all the ideas they have over the top. Again, explaining each as they go along.
Now you can take this output and create your action plan. If you can, it helps to assign timings or an owner to each action, and then share the plan with the group.
This way, everyone’s aware of anything bad that could go wrong, and what you can do to stop it, and you’ll have a much better chance of success on your project.
We used this technique recently at the start of our project with Virgin Holidays.