Try thinking backwards when making your next strategic plan

In my many readings, I have come across statements that inspire, motivate and educate in ways that are unforgettable. Some appear quite simplistic, but they are laden with teaching. One such statement goes: “The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself.”

This sounds quite obvious, but let’s be honest; do we ordinarily think that way? I don’t think so. However, it is high time we did.

When you think about it deeply, the statement essentially concerns strategic planning – envisioning a certain future and then plotting how to actualise it.

The planning of organisational strategies today demands a high level of sophistication and engagement. A lot is changing in the way organisations conduct business and programmes, owing fundamentally to technological and geo-economic and social developments that every so often introduce new fronts in demand, competition, association and operation.

There are mergers and mega-mergers. There are lots of rebranding and repositioning going on. There is more outsourcing and off-shoring of functions than before. Global perspectives are taking over localised focus and ideologies. Ways and tools of work have substantially changed in the last 10 or so years alone. A lot more attention must therefore be devoted to making organisations successful.

An effective strategy is the key to survival. As long as relevance and existence is still on your menu, you must install a practical and effective strategic plan as the operating system in your organisation.

How do you do that? Consider the following analogy:
A journey that ends well is one that begins well. This is dependent on two key variables: destination and the desired time of arrival. These two determine the direction to take, the time to depart, the means to use, the amount of fuel, and the pace at which to move. In other words, the journey is planned in reverse, with the understanding that doing so will inspire the mobilisation of the necessary resources to reach the destination in the most efficient way possible.
This analogy simplifies what has come to be known as the backwards thinking approach to strategic planning – starting from what is desired in future and then marshalling the effort and resources required to get there. It is thought to be a more effective approach. Some strategists call it “thinking backwards from the future”. It is the most proactive way of exercising control over the achievement of your future.

This quote by Robert Collier nails it: “The great successful men [and women] of the world have used their imagination … They think ahead and create their mental picture, and then go to work, materialising that picture in all its details, filling in here, adding a little there, altering this a bit and that a bit, but steadily building…”
To accomplish a similar feat, the modern-day executive must be a futurist (dares to dream) and a strategist all wrapped into one.