Pinkcast 1.6: How to anticipate (and prevent) big mistakes
LINKS AND FURTHER READING:
- Gary Klein himself describes how to conduct a project premortem in this Harvard Business Review article.
- Klein reviews the rules in greater detail in Chapter 7 of this book, The Power of Intuition (Buy it at Amazon, BN.com, or IndieBound).
- Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman explains why the premortem is his top “debiasing” technique.
- The premortem is also discussed in two of my favorite recent business books — Decisive by Chip Heath and Dan Heath and Scaling Up Excellence by Huggy Rao and Bob Sutton.
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That was really good. Two mins. Concise. To the point. Immediately applicable to my career. Thank you.
Perfect!! I have my design students listen to all of the pink casts. I was a beta tester I will incorporate into my teaching for all design classes, starting off with senior thesis projects. We write design briefs, so a pink! mortems will be added!
Good stuff. Used in my industry regularly as a risk management technique – large passenger ferries.
Love the Premortem!
We work on complex promotional and marketing orders which involve great detail and tight time frames. Using the Premortem can help forecast and anticipate that dreadful failure feeling and keep the team on track.
I remember doing this years ago when I worked for an airline. I had completely forgotten about it so thank you for the great and timely reminder!
Great technique for me, too. Thanks, Dan. Reminds me of Bob Kegan’s work concerning our immunity to change. Sometimes we don’t take the time to look at the obstacles we create for ourselves.
Love it. Understanding possible obstacles to any goal gives you the ability to solve the problem before it becomes a problem. Powerful positive thinking is the key to success. Premortem is a great way to envision the success process.
Love it! Along the same lines, my son recently gave me some great advice: “Don’t self-sabotage.” Conducting a premortem sounds like a good way to derail my efforts to self-sabotage. Thanks so much.
I so often do things on the fly, these days! Yet, I can see how this would be a great discipline — especially with bigger projects!
This may be a bit of a stretch, but I’m going to use this for my current relationship. If I use the premortem, I can avoid obvious problems that may not be so obvious b/c I’m all googly-eyed in love. Thanks Dan, this is timely.
Right ont-his helped me sort things right out.
I had a question like this during an interview for a new position and thought it was brilliant. Made me think about all the things he mentioned. Always on fleek.
Love it! What a great positive twist on “worst case scenario.” A friend of mine and I used to prepare for big projects by asking ourselves, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Then we’d scheme a solution or fix for it. Feeling confident that we had a solution for even the worst case scenario, we felt free and exuberant moving forward.
Our company does anticipatory gratitude journaling. It’s similar, although focused on leveraging the law of attraction. Anyone else use this? What’s your experience?
Love it! Great strategy – thanks! 🙂
Thanks, Dan! Could not have come at a better time as I’m mapping out several big projects and do not wish to them fail.
How is this different than planning?
Great idea. I will use it for a number of things including where to go on vacation. And other personal goals as well.
Great points. My consulting business focuses on this aspect. For some psychological reasons, people avoid thinking “bad thoughts” at the start of projects that they have decided to pursue. There is gold in these examinations.
Love this. It’s always great to look at stuff from another perspective. When you look at things the way you always do then you probably won’t see something new. @Becky, that’s what makes this different from planning. Do you think about how to be successful or do you think about how to avoid failure? Both perspectives are valuable but the last one is a road less traveled. I suggest you use both.
Hey Dan … Maybe it’s because I’m such a fan, you know read everything, watched everything, yada yada, that I was prejudiced towards liking the Pinkcast .. but I have to say, I don’t think so. Dan, mate, the Pinkcast concept & execution is a cracker. Well done. Between you & Jerry Seinfeld’s Comdedians in Cars Getting Coffee I’ve found my short black Nirvana for useful & fun info. _()_ XOTJ #pinkcast
I use this technique for every project in my life that I care deeply about. Thank you for spreading the word.
One crucial thing to keep in mind when doing ‘Premortem’ — you must have domain expertise and relevant experience to be able to predict what would go wrong (I know because I’m a serial entrepreneur and a businessman). So, if you don’t have that, find an expert who does and seek advice.
Still, when running a startup by definition it means doing something that hasn’t been done before, and most problems one think would happen, end up not happening. And problems nobody could imagine show up instead 🙂
Love it! I’ll try it for my next book! 🙂
Excellent. Imagining looking back is powerful.
On a similar tack, ‘Looking Back From Perfect’ is an exercise for existing projects or businesses.
The idea is to imagine the perfect position that has been achieved a year hence.
Envisaging a state such as ‘I am working three days a week, and I can pursue my desire to paint’
Then see what needs changing to bring that about.
A great concept. In the Theory of Constraints, we get feedback on why the project implementation might fail by getting “Yes, buts..”, indicating they like the proposed project, but know obstacles that may prevent its failure. But once the project is “sold”, a premortem sounds like an excellent way to draw out more obstacles that did not come up during the sales process. Once a team has been directed to make the project successful (a totally different view than selling a project), collecting additional obstacles makes sense!
Interesting – I have come across the technique – but ‘we are 18 months down the line, the project went really well. What are pleased to have noticed about how it happened. What was it that we did that made it work that well. etc etc.”
Saves the step of turning the negatives to a positive – and you have visualised what you did right rather than what you did wrong…
Dan, there are those who feel pinkcasts are best when they’re really short. I, for one, put more weight on the benefit of the message rather than the duration it takes to deliver it. This is a winner! Thanks.
Picking up from Yotam’s point, it is essential to also consider project success through other people’s eyes… I can claim success if my project met the stated aims, budget and time line, but if the result is not delivering a sustainable benefit for the users / customers, then it is clearly not a success.
Again, another piece of thought provoking advice from Dan
good advice! Happy to know that no body is needed 😉
This is excellent, Daniel. Thank you.
Nikola Tesla – the great inventor (AC power, flourescent lights, radio, etc.) – did somewhat the same thing. He built inventions in his mind, tested them in his mind, and then physically built them. Amazing.
Love this one! I’m in the midst of two book projects and preparing some presentations and this was the reminder I needed to ensure I meet my goals. A pre-mortem is just what the doctor ordered. Thanks!
Thanks Dan. Have you considered adding captions? Or perhaps the transcript?
Love this! What a smart way to raise awareness of pitfalls!
Another great idea Mr. Pink. This is why I love reading your books.
Like the idea of the premorten and think would be more impactful if the question was “A year from now my project was an unmitigated success, what did I do to make that happen?” Find the question gives me more energy and looks for things I need to do to make it happen while also pointing out things to avoid – is a pro-active focus on what to do.
I am really loving your Pinkcasts. I’m not a fan of the word “tribe,” but I’ve been a member of yours since your book “Drive,” which had a huge influence on my credibility while teaching teachers about sound classroom assessment and sound grading practices.
I would love to know what the other three items were in your premortem for your latest book. Please share?
This is similar to a process that the Army taught us which was “Plan for the Worst, Hope for the Best” This made you think of everything that could go wrong and then come up with contingencies or strategies to avoid them very similar to the pre-mortem.
Excellent Pink Cast and looking forward to the next one.
Thanks again for a great Pinkcast. This advice applies in my work and home life, it is an excellent way to think about risk management and creating a risk register that you can immediately take action on. Thanks again Daniel!
Just in time as my team and I are setting out on some key activities with a 3 year horizon. Plan to share this video and schedule pre-mortem sessions to save ourselves some heartache; And also have a better chance of hitting the targets. Your post diagnosis prescription of ‘positive suggestions to keep on track’ would follow right after.
Now I’m like, well duh! Truly thunkfal for your help.
Nice example of the premortem process! I was also reminded of an exercise that shows confirmation bias in a concrete way. Derek Muller of Veritasium has a nice short video at http://youtu.be/vKA4w2O61Xo.
Also, the NYT recently created an interactive version at http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/07/03/upshot/a-quick-puzzle-to-test-your-problem-solving.html.
I like Pinkcasts but can’t help feeling this one (perhaps the HBR article) is re-inventing the wheel — no major “project” should start without a risk assessment. Whilst I like the much more evocative title of Pre-mortem the purpose is the same ie “what might go wrong and how to prevent/ mitigate it”
By the way I too like the tactility of using pencils so I did agree with the previous cast !
Your best at 2 minutes. Very useful. Able to apply immediately. Very very helpful references.
Love these bite-size helpful tips and the links you provide to readings.
I’m also curious what your other three pre-mortem pitfalls were and your positive avoidance strategies for each.
One suggestion … I wanted to view the older Pinkcasts, but there’s no easy way. Maybe you could add arrows to the video that can be clickable so that we could view the older ones, newer ones?
Stay cool in this heat wave.
Hey Dan – really relevant for me as I have just finished Charles Duhigg’s new book Smarter , Faster, Better. Your video makes me think of his section on forecasting multiple futures and probabilistic thinking. Premortems enforce this kind of thinking. Cool connection between two of my favourite authors 🙂
Perfect timing. I’m getting ready to welcome about 200 incoming freshmen for a little pre-school camp to help them succeed in honors and Advanced Placement classes. This Pink moment has just become an activity. I can’t wait to hear their thinking about what would contribute to their pretend “failure” at the end of their senior years in GPA or college admissions or whatever. Thank you for your thinking. It is always interesting; many times it is inspiring.
Very cool. This will almost certainly help me this fall. Thanks Dan!
I train organisations to do this based on parallel thinking (e.g. Six thinking Hats). It enables teams and individuals to look at all aspects of a problem, idea or solution – i.e. why are we doing this?, what will it look like?, how do we feel about the idea/solution?, and what can go wrong?
And then you can do the ‘post mortem’ – what worked, what didn’t, what were the results and what actions do we need to take for next time?
That’s a great isea. Understanding project pitfalls ahead of schedule I think will be a great motivator.
That’s a great idea. Understanding project pitfalls ahead of schedule I think will be a great motivator.