Startups: How to Do a Pre-Mortem (and Prevent a Post-Mortem)

Doctors conduct postmortems to figure why people died. They do this to solve a crime, prevent the death of others, and satisfy curiosity. However, once somebody dies, it’s too late to help him.

Entrepreneurs and their investors also often analyze why a product, service, or company died—especially if it’s someone else’s company. And, as in the case of dead people, a postmortem is too late to do much good for a defunct product, service, or company. Enter the concept of premortems, coined by Gary Klein, chief scientist of Klein Associates, and author of Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions.

His idea is to get your team together and pretend that your product has failed. That’s right: failed, cratered, imploded, or “went Aloha Oe,” as we say in Hawaii. You ask the team to come up with all the reasons why the failure occurred. Then each member has to state one reason until every reason is on a list. The next step is to figure out ways to prevent every reason from occurring.

You can’t ask the team to report the issues and challenges because regular meetings are governed by mind games and unwritten rules—for example, not embarrassing your friends, not looking like a poor team player by criticizing others, and not making enemies. You can’t tell me that everyone is completely open and honest in these gatherings.

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Originally posted on GuyKawasaki.com

2015-08-03T16:11:20-06:00 August 3rd, 2015|

About the Author:

The Wayne Brown Institute was founded by the late Dr. Wayne Brown in 1983. Dr. Brown held positions in mechanical engineering and served as Dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Utah. In addition to his academic postings, he was a founder of Kenway Engineering (HK Systems), TerraTek, NPI (Agridyne Technologies), the Utah Innovation Center (the world’s first venture accelerator/incubator) and Utah Ventures (now Pelion Partners, Utah’s first and largest venture fund). By virtue of his academic, government, and business background, Dr. Brown was a leading authority in technological innovation and entrepreneurship. Many of the world’s science/research parks, innovation centers, and incubators have their roots with Dr. Brown. In addition to his many accomplishments, he has affected the role of government in innovation and entrepreneurship as the architect with Roland Tibbitts of the national Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Later, as head of the State’s Science Council he spearheaded legislation to create the Utah Technology Finance Corporation (UTFC, now Innoventures), and Utah’s Centers of Excellence program. He successfully negotiated with the U. S. government to obtain military land for the establishment of the University of Utah’s Research Park, and key in the establishment of the USU Research Park and Timpanogos technology Park in Orem (Novell campus). His knowledge, experience and passion live on in the Wayne Brown Institute, its staff, its investor-led Board, and its countless supporters.