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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While the premortem is best done (as Kahneman suggests) with a knowledgeable group, it also can be effectively used with a leader when one is the coach. I would propose that the following coaching questions be asked:

One year from now you are reflecting back on why this venture failed:

(1) What did your competitors do that contributed to the failure?

(2) What ended up not being a strength for you – or it was a strength that was used too often or inappropriately?

(3) What are several possible unanticipated impacts that had a negative impact on your venture?

(4) What were your areas of relative ignorance or your misleading biases? What could you have learned more about before starting this venture? What outside data might you have used (for example, the processes and outcomes of similar projects done in other organizations or done in your organization at another point in time)?

(5) What did the change curve look like? Was it deeper or longer than anticipated? What could have been done to reduce the depth or length of the change curve (see description of change curve below)?

These are difficult – quite challenging—questions to ask of a leader who is about to embark on a new venture. These questions are directly aligned with (yet also expand on) the spirit of organizational learning and reflective practice that are often associated with Donald Schön, Chris Argyris and Peter Senge (of Fifth Discipline fame). While the emphasis is usually placed on learning from one’s mistakes and more recently (with the emergence of appreciative inquiry) learning from one’s successes, there is also the possibility of anticipatory learning  — which is what Klein and Kahneman are encouraging with the use of pre-mortem analysis (and is similar to Otto Scharmer’s “learning from the future”). This kind of analysis might be a fundamental way in which we contribute to the welfare and success of our coaching clients.

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