Similar results in the failure and success boards for a Pre-Mortem Play

Thanks for sharing the health monitors framework you've supplied on your site, we are currently trialling some of these activities with internal teams and have had good outcomes and feedback so far.

Some feedback on the Pre-Mortem Play: I recently facilitated this play for a team, and the themes for Failure and Success boards were quite similar and the top voted themes came out almost exactly the same. When the teams split back up again to talk about action plans for these items, it seemed a little odd to have different groups talking about the same thing (and often coming up with similar plans, despite the different perspective of success or failure). 

Do you have any thoughts or ideas on how the format of this play could be tweaked for such a scenario?


1 answer

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Thanks for the question.

When I've run the play myself, I tend to find the "failure" camp comes up with typical and common risks or themes. What I challenge the "success" camp to look for, is positive amplification.

When it works, you should get different themes in from each camp. The "success" camp come back with some great opportunities for us to excel and delight, whereas the "failure" camp help us manage and mitigate our risks.

The reason we do that, is most teams usually just look at risk management as mitigation and compliance, and it's quite a low bar.

EG: In a session I ran recently, the "failure" team talked about reliance on an architect as a key member of the team. Made sense as they were a single resource.

The "success" team came back with an idea of having someone on the team who was a comm's expert, as the project was highly reliant on stakeholders inside and outside the org.

So in theory, the themes are similar (people), but the actions are different. The addition of a comm's person increases our chance of success. The mitigation of the architect reduces our chance of failure.

Does that make sense?

Thanks Dominic, yes that does make sense. Also one thing we didn't do in the action plan part of the play was to swap the teams around so that success team focused on failure team's themes and vice versa - I actually only just noticed that pro-tip after we'd done the play.

In addition to that it definitely also would've helped to get the teams going into the exercise with those different mindsets of "risk" (failure team) and "positive amplification" (success team) which we didn't establish at the start. Might help to add that as a pro-tip on the Pre-Mortem page?

Thanks for your input, much appreciated. I will pass this onto the team.


Have some fun with it Georgina, and do let us know how you get on. We love hearing feedback from users.

Pre-mortem is a tricky play. It requires head, heart, and hands, and not everyone is comfortable doing that, so Kudos to you for trying and persevering. 

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