Opinions on pre-mortem meetings

  • 16 August 2022
  • 5 replies
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Userlevel 2
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Hi Product Makers! 

I hope this is the correct place for my topic, if not- please let me know 😁

Anyway.. as the name of this discussion topic suggests- I am interested in hearing your opinions on pre-mortem meetings. Feel free to share your experiences: the good and the bad. 
Has it been helpful? How? 
Did it fail in any way? Why? 

I am interested in learning more, and if not here, with so many talented people in the field- I don’t know where! 😊

Let’s discuss!


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5 replies

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Hey yes, I use them all the time when starting a new initiative or coming up to some significant milestone.

They are always valuable, not least because they usually identify something the team is already doing that will effectively damage the project!

I usually frame the pre-mortem as “How might we sabotage the project/launch/release?” - this is an anti-problem and framing it this way usually ends up generating more creative solutions than the positive framing “How can we make a success of our…?”

Userlevel 5
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I’ve never really gotten into dedicated pre-mortem meetings, but I bake risk assessment into every feature we define.

As we work through definition, I ask each team member (product development and go-to-market teams) a few simple questions.

  • Is there anything here that worries you or you feel uncomfortable committing to?
  • Can you imagine this going sideways on us somehow?

You can never cover every risk, but the more experience you have on the team, the more those conversations will reveal.

Userlevel 3
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Hi @vvdavidova, good question - but why do you want to run them in the first place in your case?

From my experience every project that need such a meeting is usually way to big to tackle and usually doomed to fail (as majority of these risks comes from uncertainty connected with long delivery). Similarly to @plainclothes we bake the risk assessment into “problem definitions” of new functionality in form of hypotheses, but we try to limit the scope (and thus project length) into the shortest meaningful iterations and test those hypotheses as soon as possible. That way you’re able to react on the risks as they come and correct the course without wasting too many resources.

Userlevel 2
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Thank you for sharing, @martinmichalik 😊

I do not necessarily want to run them, to be honest, I created the topic for my own learning. 
I want to hear opinions on the pre-mortems, as I had never run one. I have not even participated in one, as it has never been an adopted practice at a workplace of mine, and to be honest- I had not even heard of it, until recently 😅. 
So for me it’s more about learning from the more experienced makers around here and figuring out other teams’ experiences with this, what benefits and negatives it brings, etc. etc. 

We do something similar to what both you and @plainclothes have mentioned already and it works for our team, too. 

Userlevel 4
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I love the idea. Mainly I would ask: Has your company or team experienced over-optimism, or bias toward successful outcomes vs. what has actually been achieved? 

In my company I hear quite a bit of “Yes, and we can...” and not enough “But what if this happens?”

I like the idea of a pre-mortem, where the assumption is that we will fail, and asking “Why did we fail?”