Pre-mortem: how to anticipate failure with prospective hindsight - Deepstash

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Prospective Hindsight

Prospective Hindsight

After a project ends, team members often reflect on what worked, and what did not, something known as post-mortem documentation.

What is often overlooked is a pre-mortem exercise where a team uses visualization and second-level thinking to imagine the various scenarios which could lead to failure and then work backwards, using prospective hindsight.

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Optimism Bias And Temporal Discounting

  • Optimism Bias is when we are sure about the success of a certain project or venture and do not take into account the scenarios of failure.
  • Temporal Discounting is a cognitive error where we make decisions taking into account the present condition, and not bothering about any future consequences.

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Having A Pre-Mortem Meeting

Just one ‘Pre-Mortem’ meeting at the beginning of the project can uncover many blind spots, recalibrating the mindset of all the team members.

Anticipating the future also fosters honest and open communication, and quells any fear.

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How To Perform A Pre-Mortem

  1. Review: Discuss goals and explain the various roles and responsibilities to each of the team members.
  2. Set-Up: Anticipate a scenario where the project is over and was a disaster.
  3. Brainstorm: Each team member notes the reasons it could have failed, which is easier to imagine now that the failure has been established.
  4. Share And Discuss: Everyone shares and discusses, getting into the details of the failure.
  5. Improve The Plan: Now that the prospective hindsight has been utilized, one can review and improve the plan using the new information.

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