Premortem stress tests

To look in the corners we want to avoid.

David Rowe’s latest Risk column, “Stress testing culture”, concerns the difficulty of developing good stress scenarios.  One of his particular concerns is that it is against our nature to consider the failure of something that we are working on.  We are masters at dodging that.

There is a (partial) solution.  Guy Kawasaki’s Enchantment (Aleph Blog book review) has a section on premortems.  Postmortems are the process of discovering how something died.  A premortem is the process of hypothesizing how something will have died.

Here’s how it works.  We are given the hypothetical that at some time in the future the product we are working on or the entity we are a part of has died.  We now need to come up with several ways in which this might have happened.

The psychological spell of denial is broken because we are given the death as a done deal.  That gives us the freedom to ferret about for the weakest spots.

You can see a bit more on premortems in the Harvard Business Review article by Gary Klein.


You’re spellbound baby there’s no doubting that
Did you ever see a stare like a Persian cat?

from “Deep Dark Truthful Mirror” by Declan MacManus

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