ENT 601- Postmortems

Catmull, E., & Wallace, A. (2014). Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the unseen forces that stand in the way of true inspiration: Random House.

In continuing reading “Creativity, Inc.”, Ed recounts the typical phases they would go through at Pixar in order to make a movie. The flow of phases is- conception, protection, developmental planning, and production which takes place over a span of years. However, the final process- postmortem- takes place after the completion of each movie. According to Ed, a postmortem is a meeting held shortly after the completion of every movie in which they explore what did and didn’t work and attempt to consolidate lessons learned (Catmull 2014 ). This process does not only review the completed work itself, but it also includes company as well as personal assessment.

Ed believes there are five reasons behind doing postmortems:

  1. Consolidate What’s Been Learned- postmortems are a rare opportunity to do analysis that wasn’t possible in the heat of a project.
  2. Teach Others Who Weren’t There- postmortems provide a forum for others to learn or challenge the logic behind certain decisions.
  3. Don’t Let Resentment Fester- It can be helpful to have a forum that allows people to express their frustrations about screw-ups in a respectful manner which can allow them to move on.
  4. Use the Schedule to Force Reflection- the scheduling of postmortem forces reflection. If postmortem is a chance to struggle openly with problems, the “pre-postmortem” sets the stage for a successful struggle.
  5. Pay it Forward- A good postmortem arms people with the right question to ask going forward which leads to being ahead of the game (Catmull 2014 ).

Although postmortems can be beneficial, Ed knew that many people would resist them. People shy away from self-reflection especially if it will point out a flaw or failure. This is where it is imperative to be a good leader. Good leaders can show employees the value of exercises such as the one depicted above. They are also necessary to effectively begin this reflective process. Some techniques that Ed found helpful were to vary the way postmortems, or similar exercises, were done. By doing the process one way, people will know what to expect the next time. Another helpful method is to have employers create lists. For instance, employers can list and review the top five things they would and would not repeat. Lastly, Ed recommends taking advantage of data. Data is neutral and allows discussion to flow around issues pointed out by the results. This makes the review process a less emotional experience. Leaders play an integral role in this entire process. If postmortem, or review processes, are done properly then: leaders, employers, and the company overall can greatly benefit.


Catmull, E., & Wallace, A. (2014). Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the unseen forces that stand in the way of true inspiration: Random House.

Join the Conversation


  1. Shay, The content in your post reminds me of our learning community. The difficult part of learning from one’s mistakes in the workplace is making sure that workplace politics and egos do not interfere. This is a great way to continue to improve processes.
    Best regards,
    Mike Weimar


  2. I think you had a really good book. Like you have mentioned before it is important to not just do things because they worked last time. Having a post mortem allows the team to be reflective and realize why things worked and what they might change to make it even better next time. In my current environment it can be like pulling teeth trying to get the team to be reflective, but it does have its benefits.


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: