Do problem premortems help project delivery?
Updated: Mar 4, 2021
This week's post is about how keeping problems front and centre helps project management and how that is critical to keeping projects on track.
I found a great article from Ben Hoskings - ‘Hosks Dynamic Blog’. In it, he talks about premortems to identify potential issues before they happen and how they encourages teams to identify potential obstacles before they happen – blame free.
‘Premortems are effective because no one is to blame for potential problems, it encourages people to raise potential problems. Premortems can be more effective than post mortems because in a post mortem people are being defensive and protecting themselves rather than diagnosing the actual causes of the problems. Post Mortems can suffer from people rewriting history to support their actions and justify their actions.
Premortem’s help you find potential sources of failure and give you a chance to resolve small problems before they become big problems.'
My favourite phrase in his article is: 'The best time to fix a roof is when the sun is shinning, not in a thunderstorm.’
It’s so true. For a lot of projects, problems are uncovered late, are put to one side as too difficult or ignored completely to avoid slowing the project. The issue is that they generally appear again, ambush progress and distract the project team. Ben comments:
'The best time to plan for big problems in a one off event, is before the event has started. You can stop some problems from occurring, have plans for when other problems occur.'
Define — prevent — prepare
· Define: List the worst things that could happen or the significant problems
· Prevent: List how you can stop the items above
· Repair: If the worst happens, list how to repair each bad thing
Our conclusion: there is still a need for post-mortems as part of project closures to ensure learnings and improvements are captured for the future. Problems premortem are an essential step for a successful project outcome.
Read McKinsey's article on how premortems help project management delivery here
Suggested ways to complete the project premortem https://www.atlassian.com/team-playbook/plays/pre-mortem