5 thoughts on “The Pre-Mortem

  1. That sounds like a great approach. Do you have any thoughts about the potential for over-correcting? That is, how do you prevent yourself from becoming too conservative when, having raised obstacles and concerns surrounding a worst-case scenario, you become reluctant to make changes?

    Obviously there is always a give-and-take between being overly optimistic and overly pessimistic — and it never hurts to identify the weak spots in your plan. At the same time, every plan has weaknesses, so how do you keep (staying with Kahneman) loss aversion from taking over?

    There are probably no ready made answers to this question, just a tailoring of the process over time. I definitely think it’s worthwhile, but it may be worth considering in advance whether there’s a way to prevent the process from making you more reluctant to try something than you should be.

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    • I agree, you do not want to become overly pessimistic but in my experience that does not happen. What we try to do is once you have identified the potential problem spots, look at data to support or refute whether the problems are mission critical and their potential impact. I always try to use data to make the final decisions and hopefully the pre-mortem just identifies where additional data is needed.

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  2. PM says:

    Thanks Bruce for presenting a super example of hindsight bias. The PreMortem only works if you know in advance that you are about to make a change. So i guess this would require a premortem of the entire US foreign policy for the last 20-30 years…

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