Mastering the Art of the Pre-Mortem

Of all the various techniques we use for our branding workshops, my personal favorite is the “pre-mortem.” Though entrepreneurs (especially very enthusiastic entrepreneurs) often find it morbid and deflating, it’s one of the most useful techniques ever devised for anticipating the flaws in an action plan.

The process is quite simple. You sit down with your project team and imagine that it’s six months from now. Your plan ā€” whatever it is: a new company, a campaign, a product launch ā€” lies in ashes. It failed…utterly. Your time and money were completely wasted, your backers are disillusioned and your investors are angry. How did it come to this? What on Earth happened?

I know, it’s not exactly a positive visualization technique. But there’s a point to it. Once the happy, optimistic smiles have been wiped off everyone’s face, go around the room and ask everyone what went wrong. How did we end up here after such a promising start? The answers are frequently profound. “We didn’t do enough advance research.” “We didn’t want it like we should have wanted it.” “We didn’t do enough diligence on our suppliers.” “We did what was best for us instead of what was best for our customers.”

After everyone has gotten a chance to answer, go back and turn those “pre-failures” into a checklist. Then, obviously, get after it! Make a habit of the pre-mortem and you’ll be amazed at how much smarter you’ll get at going to market.





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