An Example of Pre-Mortem Analysis


Post mortem is a familiar word to many. It is where the dead teach the living. It is carried out to find out the cause of death. Unfortunately it does not help the person who died. A pre-mortem — also known as a premortem — is a managerial strategy in which a manager imagines that a project or organization has failed, and then works backward to determine what potentially could lead to the failure of the project or organization.

The technique was introduced first by Gary Klein in 2007. The theory or hypothesis was based on the fact that the way our brains process the prediction of future [foresight] is different from the way our brain analyzes the past events [hindsight]. Hence the hypothesis was that prospective hindsight would be better than foresight as the brain is better in analyzing past events.

It also uses the principle of crowd or group thinking. It was noticed in reality TV shows that there were more correct answers from the audience than from experts of friends [91% vs 64%]. The prospective hindsight can identify the problems correctly in 30% [2].


The technique leads to improved project outcomes because it reduces over confidence and improves confidence in problem solutions. The other advantages are that it is practical, gives voice to the voiceless, it values independent thinking and creates problem sensitivity. It also helps to overcome the problem of ”group think“ where a small group of like-minded people cannot think outside the box and fool themselves into thinking that everything is alright.

Stress induces cortisol production which in turn clouds our thinking. The premortem analysis is well ahead of the stress situation and helps with rational thinking.

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