Guy Kawasaki: Conduct a Pre-mortem Meeting | Summary and Q&A

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March 7, 2011
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Stanford eCorner
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Guy Kawasaki: Conduct a Pre-mortem Meeting

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Summary

In this video, the speaker advocates for conducting a pre-mortem rather than a post-mortem in business. He explains that a post-mortem is done after an event has already failed, making it too late to prevent the failure. Additionally, a post-mortem often leads to contention and finger-pointing. Instead, a pre-mortem involves asking the team to imagine that the product or company has failed and identifying all the potential reasons for the failure. By discussing and addressing these reasons in a non-emotional manner, companies can prevent the need for a post-mortem.

Questions & Answers

Q: What is the difference between a pre-mortem and a post-mortem?

A post-mortem is conducted after an event has already failed, while a pre-mortem is done before the event to identify potential reasons for failure.

Q: Why is a post-mortem too late in business?

A post-mortem is too late because by the time a company fails, most people have already left. Additionally, it often leads to contention and finger-pointing instead of constructive analysis.

Q: What are some challenges with conducting a post-mortem in business?

Conducting a post-mortem in business often involves finger-pointing and blaming others, leading to a lot of anger and angst among team members.

Q: What is the purpose of conducting a pre-mortem?

The purpose of a pre-mortem is to identify all the potential reasons for failure before they happen. By doing so, companies can take measures to eliminate or address these reasons, preventing the need for a post-mortem.

Q: How should a pre-mortem be conducted?

A pre-mortem should involve the team pretending that the product or company has failed and then discussing all the possible reasons for that failure. These reasons should be discussed in an unemotional manner to facilitate problem-solving.

Q: What kind of reasons can be identified in a pre-mortem?

In a pre-mortem, various reasons for failure can be identified, such as lack of distribution, an unsophisticated sales force, buggy software, unreliable cloud services, or any other factors specific to the company or product.

Q: How should the team address the reasons identified in a pre-mortem?

Once the reasons for failure are identified in a pre-mortem, the team should discuss and come up with strategies to eliminate or mitigate each of those reasons. This proactive approach helps prevent the need for a post-mortem.

Q: How does a pre-mortem promote a non-emotional approach to failure analysis?

In a pre-mortem, the focus is on discussing the reasons for failure, rather than blaming individuals or specific departments. This allows for a more objective and constructive analysis of potential weaknesses.

Q: What is the main goal of conducting a pre-mortem?

The main goal of conducting a pre-mortem is to prevent the need for a post-mortem by identifying potential reasons for failure before they occur and taking proactive steps to address them.

Q: Why should companies prioritize conducting a pre-mortem?

Companies should prioritize conducting a pre-mortem because it allows them to learn from potential failures without the negative consequences and finger-pointing that often accompany a post-mortem analysis.

Takeaways

The speaker advises conducting a pre-mortem rather than a post-mortem in business. By imagining a failure scenario and identifying potential reasons for failure, companies can proactively address these issues and prevent the need for a contentious post-mortem. This approach promotes a non-emotional analysis of weaknesses and helps in avoiding finger-pointing. Conducting a pre-mortem allows companies to learn from potential failures without the negative consequences of a post-mortem.

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