HBR: Performing a Project “Premortem”

by Erin McCune on September 4, 2007

in Project Management

Postmortem_400 (Image courtesy of Steve Pyke)

The latest Harvard Business Review suggests performing a project "premortem" to identify project risks before the project has a chance to go off track. Most projects fail, and project teams are reluctant to speak up, so you would be foolish to not try this approach.

A premortem is the hypothetical opposite of a postmortem. A postmortem
in a medical setting allows health professionals and the family to
learn what caused a patient’s death. Everyone benefits except, of
course, the patient. A premortem in a business setting comes at the
beginning of a project rather than the end, so that the project can be
improved rather than autopsied. Unlike a typical critiquing session, in
which project team members are asked what might go wrong, the premortem operates on the assumption that the “patient” has died, and so asks what did go wrong. The team members’ task is to generate plausible reasons for the project’s failure.

Read more:

Performing a Project Premortem
Harvard Business Review
September 2007
Reprint F0709A

Learn more:

Pm_series_icon_2 To learn more refer to ForteBlog's series of posts on project management for finance
professionals. The series features practical project management advice
and tips for driving process change using technology.

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