Conducting a Pre-Mortem

What is a Pre-Mortem?

Courtesy Matt Byrom

In conventional project management, when you undertake a risk assessment, people are asked to say what might go wrong.

A pre-mortem is fundamentally different – it is like a project post-mortem, but done in advance. People are asked to project their thinking into the future, to a point where the project or service has definitely failed, to define what that failure may look like, and then to generate plausible reasons for that failure.
By making the eventuality of failure concrete – ‘we have failed’ – rather than merely a possibility, it subtly alters the way we think about it. It enables us to come up with more credible reasons for what could go wrong and that enables us to improve the project itself. It enables us to build learning from failure into the implementation process itself.
The steps to a pre-mortem are as follows:
  1. Outline the planned project
  2. Imagine and then describe the future failure
  3. List the reasons for failure
  4. Identify the priority reasons
  5. Agree the actions to mitigate those priority reasons

Please subscribe to access clinic content

Subscription to the Inspirometer Information Service is free of charge and grants you instant access to a wealth of meeting effectiveness resources and guidance. It also provides you with regular updates direct to your mailbox at a frequency of your choosing.

I am happy to consent to the Inspirometer cookies and Terms and Conditions

Your use of the Inspirometer Information Service is subject to the following terms and conditions, and is subject to our privacy policy which can be reviewed here:

■ We will not use your information for any other purpose than to keep you informed of developments in meeting effectiveness and the Inspirometer system, and we will not share your information with others.
■ You are able to unsubscribe from this service at any time. Each email you receive from us will contain a link where you can reset your preferences for all future emails, or unsubscribe for the service entirely.
■ We will contact you on a minimum of a quarterly basis to ensure that our service is continuing to meet your needs, to give you a general update on key developments in our service, and to provide you with the option to change your contact preferences
■ We will hold your data on file to enable your access to the Information Service until such time as you unsubscribe from the service
■ If we hold your data outside of the information service as a result of you contacting us by email or purchasing our service, we will hold your data in accordance with our Privacy Policy ( We will delete such data, in situations where we are not legally required to retain it, on receipt of a verified request from you
■ All information provided by us is provided in good faith. All information submitted by you is to be provided in good faith.
■ In compliance with the GDPR 2018, you acknowledge that clicking the subscribe button grants us your consent to hold the data you have provided, and to contact you using that data, in the manner described above.
By clicking the button below, I agree with the Terms & Conditions.
Track your progress to ensure the efficacy of this strategy.