Engineering leadership and productivity tips straight to your inbox?

TL;DR: We all know what a post-mortem is. The team talks about as a group and without blame of individuals what went well, what didn’t, and how they can improve. But ever heard of the pre-mortem? The way pre-mortems work is to consider before the project starts how the project can fail and why, in order to gauge the different risks. A very powerful tool.

Imagine all the reasons your project could turn into a miserable failure. Then figure out how you can prevent those problems now, while there’s still time.


Visualize risks and opportunities for the project, then figure out how to navigate yourself away from (or toward) them.
If you’re struggling with velocity, shared understanding, or value and metrics on your Health Monitor, running this play might help.


You’ve reached the end of the project. It’s been a treacherous ride, resulting in dismal failure. You’re now one of “those” projects, doomed to the annals of corporate folk lore.

Or perhaps your project has nonchalantly slipped into dysfunction. You’ve ploughed straight past warning signs because you were super busy and couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to them. Now you’re wishing you had.

Wouldn’t it be nice to go back in time and start again, knowing what you know now? Well, too bad. You can’t. (Sorry…) But at least you know to do a pre-mortem next time.

In a pre-mortem, your team will travel to a hypothetical future in which your project has flat-lined, and imagine all the ways things went wrong. You’ll also envision your project as a runaway success, and the reasons for it. Then you’ll plot out steps to prevent the bad and bring about the good.


Bring your core project team for sure. Also consider inviting partner teams (legal, support, marketing, security, etc) to think past what’s currently top-of-mind. You’ll identify more flavors of risk and opportunity with diverse skills and experiences in the room.


Want engineering leadership and productivity tips?

Subscribe to our newsletter Weekly Bytes to get our curation of the top 5 articles of the week.
%d bloggers like this: