Conducting a Postmortem

Overview: Premortem versus Postmortem

A decision postmortem looks back after the fact, to reflect on what worked and didn’t work as a way to enable future improvement.

A premortem is, in general terms, the opposite of a postmortem. It takes place at the beginning of a project, or decision. What makes a premortem powerful is the framing—you assume failure. With defeat solidly in mind, you take a hard look at what went wrong—and then develop strategies that could have prevented this outcome.


  • Postmortems typically take place at the end of a project. However, conducting them during a project as well (monthly, quarterly, or annually) can enable course corrections and help teams avoid overlooking opportunities for improvement.
  • Helps identify and promote best practices.
  • Encourages collaboration. By including leadership, as well as stakeholders and clients, the team gets the full range of perspectives and agendas in real-time.
  • Every voice is heard. The tone of postmortems is one of fact-finding and truth-seeking, not pointing fingers or finding a scapegoat.

How to Execute a Postmortem

  1. Timely Scheduling
    Schedule a postmortem meeting within one week after the project ends, so that details remain fresh and engagement remains high.
  2. Meeting Preparation
    Get ready for the postmortem by:

    • Assigning a meeting moderator and separate note-taker.
    • Sending out a survey to collect feedback from project team members. Collecting this in advance of the meeting helps ensure candid feedback. Once in a meeting, strong voices may overshadow others.
    • Creating a meeting agenda and sharing it with attendees in advance.
  3. During the Meeting:
    • Recap initial project objectives. Compare the expected results with the actual outcomes.
    • Recap the project timeline, comparing the original plan with the actual experience.
    • Use team feedback to lead a discussion about what worked well and what could have been planned better.
    • Identify and assign actionable items to improve future projects.
  4. After the Meeting:
    • Write a postmortem report with key takeaways and areas for improvement.
    • Share the report with key stakeholders to ensure that what you learned from the project is applied to other projects moving forward.

Share this resource to your favorite platform!

View our other resources

  • Using a Weight-and-Rate Tool

    Often, we move to make a decision before really thinking about what matters most to us. This is where a weight-and-rate tool can help.

  • Conducting a Premortem

    A premortem is a tool used in business for decades to help deliver stronger results. It drives teams to anticipate failure, then take steps to prevent it.