Home Tools Coaching Questions Soliciting the Pre-Mortem and Riding the Change Curve: Coaching Tools, Strategies and Concepts for Effective Planning

Soliciting the Pre-Mortem and Riding the Change Curve: Coaching Tools, Strategies and Concepts for Effective Planning

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Perpetual optimism, on the other hand, can also get us into a heap of trouble.  Kahneman other behavioral economists identify several major biases associated with optimism:

(1) Neglect of the strengths and strategies used by competitors (neglect of the Threat sector in a SWOT analysis)

(2) Over-estimation of our own individual and collective strengths (neglect of the Weakness sector in a SWOT analysis)

(3) Failure to acknowledge unanticipated impacts on our plans (Nassim Taleb’s “Black Swans”) (neglect of the unanticipated Threats in SWOT)

(4) Failure to acknowledge that there are unknowns we don’t know we don’t know (to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld moment of candor and insight) (neglect of both the Weakness and Threat sectors of SWOT)

(5) Failure to take into full consideration the change curve that inevitably is engaged when a new plan is engaged (see my discussion of “change curve” below).

The Pre-mortem Speech and Key Coaching Questions

As a way to address these potential biases of optimism, Klein (and Kahneman) suggest that a pre-mortem analysis be done before the decision is made to venture into new territory (a new project, strategy, way of approaching recurrent problems, etc.).  I believe that the pre-mortem can be a very powerful coaching tool and strategy and provide Kahneman’s specific and brief description of this process while also offering a set of coaching questions that address the five biases I just listed. First, the quote from Kahneman (2011, p. 264):

The procedure is simple: when the organization has almost come to an important decision but has not formally committed itself, Klein proposes gathering for a brief session a group of individuals who are knowledgeable about the decision. The premise of the session is a short speech: “Imagine that we are a year into the future. We implemented the plan as it now exists. The outcome was a disaster. Please take 5 to 10 minutes to write a brief history of that disaster.”

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