PM Tactic: Running a Remote Pre-Mortem Meeting

This post is by Giff Constable from

Whenever a team is heading into a high-stakes project of any kind, I recommend they run a 1-hour pre-mortem. This brainstorming exercise stretches the team to identify possible failure points. Once you’ve spotted items, you can then decide which ones deserve mitigating strategies. It creates a safe space to talk about concerns without fear of appearing overly negative or critical of others.

Here’s a way to run the meeting with a geographically distributed team:

Before the meeting

Create the brainstorming board. This can be as simply as a shared Google Sheets doc, but if you have a Mural or Miro account, I like using visual sticky notes. Put a big, blank box in the middle. Around the periphery, spread out sticky notes with the participants’ names. It doesn’t really matter if you go with different colors or all the same color.

Decide who should attend. I would recommend getting as much cross-functional representation as possible. However, avoid having someone in the room who might stifle honest, speculative concerns (sometimes the presence of certain senior executives can have that effect).

Invite participants. In your email, set the context. For example:

Team, we are running a group pre-mortem to identify and get ahead of possible risks in hitting our goal. Before the meeting, please carve out some quiet time to think: imagine that it is [June 30] and we’ve MISSED our goal to [hit a metric, ship a feature, etc]. Why did this happen? Please think about all the things that (Read more…)