Publication Date



[Excerpt] An autopsy—aka a postmortem examination—is a specialized surgical procedure conducted by a pathologist to thoroughly assess a corpse to determine or confirm the exact cause and circumstances of death or the character and extent of changes produced by disease.

Knowledge is what you harvest from experience—be that your own or someone else’s—through sense-making. In sundry areas of human endeavor, it is common (but not common enough) to conduct the equivalent of a post-mortem by means of formal completion or evaluation reports—after-action reviews, retrospects, and learning histories are rarer still—to try to understand why an initiative did or did not succeed. And so, except in learning organizations, lessons (to be) learned mostly eventuate in the form of hindsight—that, by and large, focusing on accountability, not learning—at the (wrong) end of a plan. Paraphrasing Karl Marx, this is why history repeats itself: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.


Suggested Citation

Serrat, O. (2012). The Premortem Technique. Washington, DC: Asian Development Bank.

Required Publisher's Statement

ADB encourages printing or copying information exclusively for personal and noncommercial use with proper acknowledgment of ADB.