• Is the path to success all about doing things right, or doing the right things ONLY?
  • If failure is the stepping stone to success, can we just hop over the stone and still reach the end?
  • What if we knew all the things that would go wrong, I mean ALL of them. Would that guarantee success?

One of the concepts talked about by management gurus recently is negative visualisation. How about if you assume that things will go wrong. Say you are doing a project which involves multiple moving parts and many people. So the possibility could be someone falling sick, someone leaving the project midway, some important tool or component not being delivered/being damaged, etc. Apart from these, one also needs to account for any natural calamity like rain, storm, earthquake, pandemic, etc., that might also lead to schedule disruption or damage to property/equipment, etc. In negative visualisation, we check each point of failure and the likely remedial measures to prevent that from happening, it can go a long way in ensuring success of the project.

Just like Post-mortem of a body involves analysing the parts of the body and various functions to determine what went wrong, similarly a pre-mortem of the project/plan/schedule would do the analysis before the plan is executed, to list out the key points that would need ‘extra care’ and supervision.

Like the pre-mortem of a happy marriage would involve listing out all possible causes for a divorce. If Bill and Melinda Gates had done this, they might have saved their 27 year marriage. What qualities or what kind of acts by one partner will be ‘unacceptable’ or ‘non-negotiable’. One quality is dishonesty, plain and simple, you did not tell me the truth. Of course, one can debate on the degree of un-truth and that exactly is the reason for pre-mortem, because everyone has their own level of expectations and tolerance.

Lets assume that you are a civil administrator of a city. The daily running of the city, right from power, water, sanitation, roads, etc., all roll up to you for supervision. What could bring the city to standstill? a transformer from the power supply unit going dow; sewage tank overflow; a tree falling and blocking the main entry to the city, etc. If one has a list of these possibilities and only thing you do is to ensure these do not happen, then a smooth functioning of the city is guaranteed. 

Many times, one can succeed in a task, just by studying the errors made by the predecessor in the task, and ensuring those are not repeated. The human brain looks at “Do Not Do” signs very differently. We are wired to check those things out all the time. As Marcus Porcius Cato wrote:

Wise men profit more from fools than fools from wise men; for the wise men shun the mistakes of the fools, but fools do not imitate the successes of the wise.

The same analogy is adopted in disease tracking. The existing conditions that were prevalent around the patient before the contraction, is studied to determine which one or a combination of the factors, would have lead to the disease.

In Summary, always look at possible stumbling blocks in reaching your goal and address the same before you start, thus ensuring a smooth ride to finish!