Pre-Mortems: Think you’re ready to ship….

…What could possibly go wrong?

vaccineHere’s an idea: conduct a “pre-mortem” to prepare.

The gist of the activity is to consider all that could possibly “go wrong.” Then the conversation switches to a mitigation and action plan. (Maybe the team even does a pre-mortem activity at Lift-Off or at Sprint 0?)

How it works:

  1. Draw a pre-mortem canvas on a white board – with two topics for discussion:
    • What could possibly go wrong?
    • How could this possibly end in disaster?
  2. Participants individually or as a team write down risks and concerns on post-its.
  3. Group like post-its, identify themes, clarify, add more notes that emerge during this discussion
  4. Team members then write down on post-it notes (best to use a different color) their ideas on how to mitigate those risks and concerns, focusing on the following topics:
    • Prevention – What is in place (or could be put in place) that would attempt to stop the risk from happening?
    • Detection – What is in place  (or could be put in place) that would let us know if and when the risk happened?
    • Response – If the risk happens anyway, what measures do we have in place (or could be put in place) to lessen the impact?
  5. Discuss the mitigators as a group and make a plan of action (I like to call these “vaccines”)

Some things to make sure you’ve got covered

  • Internal Communication
  • External Communication
  • Roll Up
  • Roll Back
  • Follow Up / Feedback Loop

Go for it

Try a pre-mortem –  a great way to head off a Post-Mortem and/or a Code Brown.

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