Failure mode is a single scenario design method used to examine causes and effects of sudden change.

Uses of the method

  • Ranks options to determine the highest chance of operational safety
  • Prioritizes the issues with the highest chance of failure and their effects
  • Anticipation and mitigation of highest risks
  • Helps assesses potential for failure among emerging changes
  • Testing of new ideas and changes


  • Reduce possibility of future failures
  • Cut future failure costs
  • Find new solutions
  • Improve safety
  • Increase teamwork


  • Ranking system may produce flawed priorities
  • Only deals with single failures (Use Fault Tree Analysis for multiple failure analysis)
  • Better suited to bottoms up analysis than as a strategic tops down method

Steps to complete

  • First complete the qualitative cause analysis at Act | Change | Failure.
  • Only one failure scenario exists at a time but multiple separate scenarios can be created with different assumptions and rules each time and aggregated together using the Reports function here.
  • Then rank the possible effects at Act | Forecast | Failure mode.
  • Rank each of the indicators based on the Issue and its failure assumptions and rules.
  • Capture unique insight into new ways of seeing that can be utilized by the organization.
  • What conclusions can we draw from the exercise(s)?
    • How might the future be different?
    • How does A affect B?
    • What is likely to remain the same or change significantly?
    • What are the likely outcomes?
    • What and who will likely shape our future?
    • Where could we be most affected by change?
    • What might we do about it?
    • What don't we know that we need to know?
    • What should we do now, today?
    • Why do we care?
    • When should we aim to meet on this?
  • Finish by noting your next steps. Next steps could include a further round of iteration, a recommendation on how to get the answers or use of other research and methods such as 'Starburst' to create more vantage points on the issue.

This method and your response can be shared with other members or kept private using the 'Privacy' field and through the 'Tag', 'Report' and 'Forum' functionalities. Use 'Tag' and/or 'Report' to aggregate your analyzes, or add a 'Forum' to ask others where they agree/disagree and encourage them to make their own analysis from their unique vantage point.

Click the 'Invite tab to send invitations to other members or non-members (colleagues, external experts etc.) to ask for their input. You can whether or not you want anonymous responses.  These can be viewed and exported within the Responses tab.

Further reference

Early technique developed by reliability engineers in the 1950's to study failures of military systems.

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Even with all the advice and tools we have provided here starting a foresight project from scratch can be a daunting prospect to a beginner. Let us know if you need help with this method or want a group facilitation exercise or full project or program carrying out by us. We promise to leave behind more internal knowledgeable people who can expand your initiative for better organizational performance.

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