Working Backwards – 3 reasons on why it works!

John F Kennedy had a grandiose vision – put a man on moon. Several years after Kennedy’s death, in 1969, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.

President Dwight Eisenhower took a US map and on it drew eight highways running through the country. With that hand-drawn map, the foundation for the world’s best 48,000 miles of interstate highway was laid.

In 1915 Gandhi saw an Independent India free from British Colonialism and several years later in 1947, India gained independence.

Martin Luther King had a dream of equality – to see all men as equal in the eyes of the creator. And, in 1964, the civil rights act abolished segregation.

When these individuals put out a vision and imagined the future, they had no detailed inkling on how to achieve that vision.  All they had was a distant milestone with their eyes set on reaching it. JFK was the President for hardly a couple of years, his unfortunate death did not deter the progress towards the vision. 

There are many like JFK, Eisenhower, Gandhi and MLK who set a vision and achieved it. How did they achieve their goals?

The secret….

Working backwards.

Here are 3 reasons on why working backwards yields results:

You shape the future – Let us take a look at Amazon. The company has a unique company culture. Before they launch a new service or a product, a team focuses on writing the launch letter describing all features and capabilities. They review the product or service from a customer view point and even write up a FAQ. They go through several iterations and come out with a robust launch document with visuals and branding. Only after they are convinced of their product capabilities, do they actually start work on developing the product or service.

They shape and visualize the future first, then work backwards to make it happen.

You focus on execution – Visualizing the future and the final outcome is a paradigm shift – essentially you are saying “I know the answer, let me work backwards even to the point of constructing the problem”. The discussions become action plan focused. You are not struck in a strategic discussion, instead focused on ruthless execution to make it a success.

You become objective – Since the future is already shaped and visualized, working backwards takes out emotional constraints. Discussions become objective. In a real world situation, if you are in a team, there is less management required. Take the Amazon example again, you know the final outcome, you have written up the features and capabilities, you also have an FAQ. With an action plan in place, now the individuals focus on developing a product to meet the written features. The goal and expectations are clearly set, resulting in minimal supervision.

Working backwards Works.

Without visualizing the future and working backwards, we would not have a man on the moon, a free India, a robust infrastructure and a free society.

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