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Boost your company results with these two special forces techniques

Written by Eric Partaker on Tuesday, 14 September 2021. Posted in Leadership, People

Some of my coaching clients have included former special forces operatives. Before engaging in any mission, and immediately following, these brave soldiers perform what you can call a pre-mortem and a post-mortem, respectively.

Boost your company results with these two special forces techniques

Some of my coaching clients have included former special forces operatives. Before engaging in any mission, and immediately following, these brave soldiers perform what you can call a pre-mortem and a post-mortem, respectively.


Quite literally meaning "before death" and "after death", the pre-mortem and post-mortem are also fantastic ways to increase the likelihood of a current or future project succeeding.

Unless you're using these techniques, odds are you and your team won't be achieving as much as you could.

Pre-mortem. 

During a pre-mortem, the soldiers think through and visualize everything that could potentially go wrong during their mission, whether that’s an enemy emerging from an unexpected location, a team member becoming injured, or some other undesirable event.


Most critically, they also discuss and visualize how they will counter each and every obstacle that may appear. When it comes time for the actual mission, they can not only survive the shock of the unexpected but also step strongly into the discomfort, having already “seen” it and planned for it in advance.

Ask yourself and your team to imagine a year has passed and you haven't achieved your goals, or your critical projects have failed. What would have driven the failure? Once you've captured all the potential obstacles, prioritize them based on the potential severity and likelihood of occurrence, and develop plans to mitigate their risk.

You can also use pre-mortems on a more micro, daily basis. I often visualize all the things that could potentially go wrong in my day, including the typical things that might distract me and things that may not go the way that I had hoped. In my mind’s eye, I see these events as they unfold, and then also visualize how I would respond, as my best self, in each and every situation.

Post-mortem.

Referring back to our Special Forces operatives, the post-mortem is equally powerful. Once a mission has been completed, the soldiers gather for a debriefing, also called an After-Action Report. Rank is set aside, and everyone is encouraged to speak their mind. The discussions can become heated as emotions fly, all in the spirit of helping one another learn from successes and failures so they can better navigate the future life-and-death decisions they will face.


Our projects, and “missions”, if you will, are chock full of learning opportunities. Too often teams never schedule a proper post-mortem, to discuss all the things that went well, and more importantly all the things that could have gone better. How about you? Are these reviews scheduled into your calendar?

You can also perform a post-mortem on the day itself, reviewing the twenty-four hours just past and asking yourself what went well, your wins, and what could have gone better, your learnings. What did you win yesterday? What did you learn yesterday?

Are you conducting pre-mortems and post-mortems for your most important projects? What about for your days? Doing so can significantly improve your success.

Regardless of whether we employ a pre-mortem to anticipate our obstacles or a post-mortem to learn from our experiences, we must take action. If we do not act on our insights, we miss our opportunity to improve.

About the Author

Eric Partaker

Eric Partaker

Eric Partaker is a high performance coach for business leaders and captains of industry, helping them and their companies to scale-up. He advised 50 CEOs while at McKinsey & Company, and was a key player in building Skype’s multi-billion-dollar success story.

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