Your Project was a Failure — but why?

Your prediction is probably wrong. Find out why before you start.

Leon Purton
Sparks Publication
Published in
6 min readMar 5, 2020

There is a trend that has been around for a while in areas of management, it is called the pre-mortem. First spoken about by Gary Klein in a 2007 HBR article he introduces the concept of asking your team to diagnose what went wrong when their project spectacularly failed — before they’d even launched.

Different from a post-mortem (or after-action review), which uses all the evidence to work backwards and find the medical cause of death. A pre-mortem uses the whole teams gut-feeling, intuition, and withheld reservations to identify weaknesses in the execution plan.

If this is done right your team can either design out those flaws and strengthen areas of weakness, or they can develop strategies to cope with the identified failure points. But how do you run a pre-mortem? Let me tell you.

Photo by Werner Du plessis on Unsplash

Predicting the Future

Humans are notoriously bad at predicting the future. We are overly optimistic, we believe that the things that have happened previously are a complete set of what could happen in the future, and when we see new information we automatically use it to support our position rather than disprove it.

This is due to our cognitive biases. These mental heuristics limit our ability to predict the future well. We all subconsciously believe we know the best.

I have previously written about the fact that

100% of the stories we tell ourselves are true, even if they aren’t.

Because of this, if we start telling ourselves about the success of our projects and teams, the forecasted profits or efficiencies, the awards or recognition it is because we truly believe it will happen.

This is a wonderful thing, you can achieve so much with a positive mindset. However, it can also be powerful to be purposeful about being negative. Looking for a way for the negativity to serve as a foundation for success.



Leon Purton
Sparks Publication

Inspired by life. Leadership, Growth, Personal Development. Engineer and Sports Enthusiast. Top Writer in Leadership