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.