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Conduct a “premortem” at the start of a major project

The Harvard Bus. Rev., Vol. 85, Sept. 2007 at 18, describes a technique whereby a law department’s managers, about to start an implementation of e-billing, a total revamping of the records management process, or some other significant project, imagine that the project fails. Yes, fails, and spectacularly.

The key step for the participants in the Cassandra meeting, each on their own, is to “write down every reason they can think of for the failure – especially the kinds of things they ordinarily wouldn’t mention as potential problems, for fear of being impolitic.” Next, in my improvement on the recommended procedure of Gary Klein, everyone turns in their suggestions and one person reads them off, thus protecting to some degree the identity of the person who suggested a particular hypothetical cause of the imagined failure. After all, who wants to be identified as the one who wrote “The General Counsel is too stupid to pull it off.”

The team or its leader can then evaluate the warning ideas and look for ways to minimize their risks (See my posts of Dec. 10, 2005 about litigation studies at BellSouth; April 2, 2005; April 27, 2005 on knowledge management; Nov. 6, 2006 on “after action reviews; and April 7, 2006 on litigation.).

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One response to “Conduct a “premortem” at the start of a major project”

  1. Lucas says:

    How can I implement this method on a law department or law firm that have least than five lawyers?
    I can have some problems with impolitics suggestions on this kind of environment. In this case, how can I prevent the identification of the one who wrote impolitic things?