Brainwriting Premortem
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Heather Gilmartin, PhD, NP developed Brainwriting Premortems as a method of:

  • quickly engaging QI stakeholders
  • creating an environment of psychological safety
  • gathering feedback from each individual to maximize the effectiveness of implementing their planned QI projects

Learn more about Brainwriting Premortems by reading the PQI Blog

You should use the Brainwriting Premortem Method when...

  • You want to rapidly gather ideas about a new program from those who will be doing the work.
  • You have limited amount of time and resources
  • You have limited (or no) experience in group facilitation
  • You want to engage stakeholders early in a project
  • You want to be upfront that your program will not be perfect from the start
  • You want help from those doing the work to adapt and reinvent aspects of your program to move it forward 
  • You want to create an environment where everyone feels able to share their ideas


Brainwriting is when a group of people get together and write out ideas on a specific topic. The process involves one person writing ideas on a sheet of paper, then passing the paper to other members of the group. Participants are given time to read, reflect and expand on each other’s ideas. The goal of passing papers from one person to the next is to share ideas, trigger new idea, and prompt innovative and out-of-the box thinking.

A premortem is the hypothetical opposite of a postmortem. In healthcare, a postmortem allows the healthcare team to learn what caused a patient’s death. Everyone benefits, except the patient. The same idea can be translated to project implementation. A premortem in a project planning setting comes at the beginning of a project rather than the end, so that the project can be improved rather than autopsied. Unlike a typical problem identification session in which stakeholders are asked what might go wrong, the premortem assumes that the project has been implemented and failed, and asks what did go wrong. The stakeholder's task is to generate plausible reasons for the projects failure.

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