In my last blogpost, I discussed when it is good to look back to go forward. However, I now want to discuss when looking back is not a good idea.

I understand that this could be seen as contradictory, but in the first post I was talking about ‘looking back’ during a project as part of a review; in this post I am talking about doing so in the planning phase. This applies to any plan which is looking at improving: strategic business planning, personal growth plan, problem solving etc.

The most consistent method I have seen people use in planning for improvement is a version of the following:

  • Where are we now?
  • Where do we want to be?
  • What do we need to do?

Whilst there is nothing innately wrong with this, there is a potentially limiting issue within it – you are using the past to look at the future. This could be seen as being realistic, or using experience. However, it will undoubtedly colour your view of what can be achieved: in some case reducing your view of what is possible. If you have had a tough year, or have faced lots of challenges and perhaps not achieved as much as you would have liked, the likelihood is that this will reduce your expectations of what can be achieved next year (or whatever the duration of the project is).

I therefore, suggest the following slight (but very impactful) change to the process. Ask the questions in the following order:

  • Where do we want to be?
  • Where are we now?
  • What do we need to do?

This will not only result in a more creative discussion about the future, it will likely give you a future desired state that is more compelling, and motivational.

Whether for a personal development goal; an improvement project; or building the strategy for your business, looking to the future before evaluating the past, will set your sights higher and bring more improvement in the long run.

I am interested to hear your experiences in this area, so please share them by commenting. Also, if you have found anything contained in this post interesting or helpful, please share it using the social media icons at the top. Thank you.