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Do a pre-mortem

Mar 09, 2023


Next time you’re locking down next steps or a plan of action, try doing a ‘pre-mortem’.

Something to try...

As you wrap up that project meeting (or even a coaching conversation), try asking: “2 weeks from now, when we sit down to review our progress, what is most likely to have gotten in the way or thrown us off course?”

... and 3 Reasons Why

  • As morbid as it sounds, a pre-mortem is a great way of anticipating the obstacles that are just lurking in our near future. What I like most about this frame is that it’s not intended to kill an idea (despite the terminology!). Instead, it focuses the mind on what we can do to overcome those obstacles.

  • To quote Tim Ferris (who I’m pretty sure wasn’t the first to say this): “We tend to overestimate what we can do in a day and underestimate what we can do in a month.” I can easily sit in a conversation with you and make all kinds of promises bathed in an optimistic glow. A pre-mortem can be a great way to gently bring the real world back into the conversation.

  • A pre-mortem can also be a great way to reinforce accountability - the thing that gives commitment weight. By saying, “In 2 weeks, when you and I are sitting down to talk about progress…”, you’re sending a clear signal that progress is important, and we’ll be talking about it soon. 



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