Tag Archives: AAR

Pre-mortem for risk mitigation

robert-mankoff-o-k-let-s-just-have-a-look-see-at-this-pre-mortem-new-yorker-cartoonIf you wait until a post-mortem to review what went wrong, you are already dead!  It’s not going to help.  😦

Guy Kawasaki mentioned another approach on his recent Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders podcast appearance.

Before your effort fails, get everyone to close their eyes and imagine it has failed.  Have each person describe the scenario that they believe could have led the team to that point.  Then all you have to do is capture all the described wrong turns as risks and decide which ones are important to mitigate.

Just like so many good ideas, this idea’s simplicity is its genius.  Participants will be emotionally involved and therefore will cut straight to the heart of the matter during an exercise that can otherwise be pretty dry.

Guy may have drawn the idea from this HBR article: Performing a Project Pre-Mortem.

Anyone ever tried it?  If not, give it a shot and let me know what you think.


2-5-1 Storytelling

Lucky enough to arrive at KMWorld the night before the main portion of the conference, I had the pleasure of catching a Nancy Dixon session that evening called “High Impact Storytelling“.   Although it was not a competition, there was one story in that session that rose above all the others.  Although I doubt I will do the story full justice, I will try to re-tell it here

The original storyteller, Lt Col Karuna Ramanathan, lives in Singapore and has a pretty heavy accent when speaking English.  Although accents often create a communication gap, in this case I believe it helped because one had to concentrate throughout to pick up all the words.

As you can imagine from his title, Karuna is part of the military in Singapore.  He starts out by setting the scene and explaining that military personnel in Singapore are very reluctant to share their opinions due to their culture.  This can make for a very quiet after-action-review (AAR).  In order to maximize the value of the program, they need to coax out the tacit knowledge.  So, his team developed a framework they call 2-5-1.  It goes like this:

  • 2
    • Who you are
    • Summary of your experience
  • 5 fingers
    • Little finger – what parts of the effort did not get enough attention
    • Ring finger – What relationships were formed, what you learned about relationship building
    • Middle finger – what you disliked, what/who made you frustrated
    • Pointer finger – what you would do better next time around, what you want to tell those who were “in charge” about what they could do better
    • Thumb (up) – what went well.  What was good.
  • 1 – the most important takeaway from the effort

This is a framework that everyone can relate to.  It is also a framework that is easily remembered and easily walked through while standing up in front of a group.  Those who are uncomfortable speaking in front of a group can use one hand to grasp the corresponding finger on the other hand for each section…adding to their comfort level by giving them a prop.

If you have a good storytelling framework, tell us about it in the comments.