Use the Future-Back process to make consistently better decisions

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If you are dealing with a big and difficult decision, want to increase your implementation success, and are looking for a tool in addition to our strategic decision model, why not use the Future-Back process? Here’s how it works:

1. Gather your team together and set them into two groups

2. Set the time to the future (maybe one year ahead)

3. To one group, tell them to imagine that the decision was a roaring success; and to the other group, tell them to imagine that it was a blinding failure

4. Tell each of them to identify how the situation unfolded

5. Come together and share all the reasons how they happened

6. Collate the information and uncover any hidden roadblocks that need to be overcome

7. Build a solution set that overcomes all the roadblocks and lead you to a smooth path to success

This process was developed by Gary Klein who named it a “pre-mortem”. This is in contrast to a post-mortem. “Mortem” actually means “death” and hence, post-mortem is something done after death; and by extension, “pre-mortem” is something done before death. Obviously, we are not talking about death per se; it applies to any event, most normally applied when there was a failure (but not exclusively). Hence, a pre-mortem is something done before the event, before the decision, before the execution. It is a means to apply mental simulations on a situation to uncover any uncertainties in a decision or a process before it is taken.

Why do a pre-mortem?

1. Why not?

When we are dealing with a big decision, it is important for us to look at the situation from all angles. And so, what have you got to lose by doing the pre-mortem? After all, it would be better than to do a post-mortem, wouldn’t it?

2. Puts the spotlight on the future

But more than that, by starting from the end in mind and working back to the present, we put that spotlight on the future, on what we want to achieve. This helps us move away from short-termism and adopt a more long-term view of our decision.

3. Uncover potential pitfalls

When thinking about the reasons why the decision will be a failure, we will uncover potential pitfalls that we can pre-empt and find ways to either avoid them, or to overcome them. This puts in pathways for us to lead to a successful decision.

4. Understand the limits of your solution

Some of the pitfalls cannot be circumvented nor avoided. This gives us the limits of our decision and also what we can expect as the best case. This can sometimes lead us to abandoning the decision, because the upside may not be high enough to warrant the resources to make it.

5. Gives you more confidence to deal with uncertainty

Once we know what to look out for, we can have more confidence is going forward.

So, when you are faced with a big and difficult decision, then you might like to us the Future-Back (pre-mortem) thinking to get greater clarity.

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