Backward / Forward Planning

This is an interesting technique that helps ensure you have chosen the right problem to work on. It will make you think hard about what you really want.

How to do it

  1. Using a flipchart or just a piece of paper, write your problem down in the middle of the page. Turn your problem statement into a sentence that starts with the words “How to”.
  2. Now ask the question, “If this was the solution to a problem, what could that problem be?” Write your answer above the original problem on the page. Again, turn this into a sentence that starts with the words “How to”.
  3. Take this new problem and ask the question again – “If this was the solution to a problem, what could that problem be?” Write your answer above the other two problems – as a “How to”.
  4. Do this two more times so that you have five “How to” statements.
  5. Now go back to your original problem and ask the question, “If this was a solution, what benefits would it give?” Write these down underneath the original problem – you need at least three. Turn them into “How to” statements. They need to be different from the “How to” statements you wrote above your original problem statement.
  6. Go back again to your original “How to” and ask, “What is stopping you from making it happen?” Write the answer down, again as a “How to” statement.
  7. Now look at your nine “How to” statements and decide which is the most appropriate starting point. You may still go back to your original “How to” statement and it is OK if you do, as you will now have done so with some useful perspective.

Example

Step 1: Let’s say the original problem was:

“We need more people involved in continual improvement”

Turn this into a “How to” statement:

“How to involve more people in continual improvement”

Step 2: Ask the question, “If having more people involved in continual improvement was the solution to a problem, what could that problem be?”

Answer:

“We need to have more things improved in the organisation”

Turn this into a “How to”:

“How to have more things improved in the organisation”

Step 3: Ask the question, “If having more things improved in the organisation was the solution to a problem, what could that problem be?”

Answer:

“The whole organisation needs to be performing better”

Turn this into a “How to”:

“How to get the whole organisation performing better”

Step 4: Ask the question, “If getting the whole organisation performing better was the solution to a problem, what could that problem be?”

Answer:

“We need to completely satisfy patient needs effectively and efficiently”

Turn this into a “How to”:

“How to completely satisfy patient needs effectively and efficiently”

Step 4 (continued): Ask the question, “If completely satisfying patient needs effectively & efficiently was the solution to a problem, what could that problem be?”

Answer:

“We want to be proud of what we do”

Turn this into a “How to”:

“How to be proud of what we do”

Step 5: Go back to the original problem statement and ask, “If having more people involved in continual improvement was a solution, what benefits would it give?”

Answer:

Turn these benefits into “How to” statements:

“How to stop having to persuade people to do it”

“How to get more people thinking the same way”

“How to get the organisation working more as a team”

Step 6: Ask the question, “What is stopping you from making the original “How to” happen?”

Answer:

“We haven’t got the time to do it”

Turn this into a “How to”:

“How to find the time to involve more people”

Step 7: Now decide which is the best starting point. What do you really need to be working on?

A final thought …

Try Backward / Forward Planning on one of your private life issues or problems, e.g., “I need more money” , “I want a new house”, “I’d like an expensive car”, etc.