Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

meeting pre-mortem

You're keen to bring more focus into your meetings, right?

There are some surprisingly simple strategies that can help us avoid the pitfalls that beset them. How about the pre-mortem?

Sounds a bit gloomy doesn't it. Well, it can have a very positive effect on your meetings about projects or big decisions.

With a pre-mortem, you imagine that a project has failed, and then work backwards to determine what could lead to the failure of the project. You envision the best and worst possible outcomes, then identify how to best respond in each case. Chip and Dan Heath recommend the pre-mortem in their book Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work. I like their work and the method.

Why use the pre-mortem?

Because often in meetings people can start competing trying to convince each other that their ideas are best. Factions can form and consequently opinions can become relatively entrenched. The outcome?

You know the attitude, 'I'm right and I won't back down (even if I can see your points are better) because I'd lose face if I did'. That actually fuels conflict, not the consensus that most participants hope for.

Bringing possible big problems out in the open as part of a strategic decision-making process is actually quite a relief. It gives you a forum to acknowledge the worries that can sit behind people's aggressive stance to defend their beliefs.

Sounds pretty logical doesn't it? With a pre-mortem, you are adopting a detached perspective.

The pre-mortem also links well with other decision-making strategies like the Fishbone and SWOT analysis.

Ok, so instead of 'death by meeting', a pre-mortem can add new life to your meetings.

Worth a try?

About Dharan Longley

dharan longley blog

Dharan Longley is a Senior Trainer at Skillset.

Dharan is an international master trainer with post-graduate qualifications in adult education.

His assignments have included training police officers and university managers in the Middle East, as well as teachers and staff of large organisations in New Zealand.

Dharan's topics are 'effective meetings', 'problem-solving and decision-making', 'team development', 'training for trainers' and 'customer service'. He particularly enjoys helping people with diverse points of view agree on practical solutions.

Dharan is based in Wellington. He has a passion for the outdoors. On days off, he’ll be taking photographs of forests or waves, or out kite surfing.

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