-- Rick Karash, firstname.lastname@example.org, host for learning-org
Date: Fri, 13 Oct 95 22:48:35 GMT-101:52
From: "Elizabeth J. Godair" <egodair@STL-07SIMA.ARMY.MIL>
To: Richard Karash <email@example.com.COM>
Subject: Re: Ackoff and Backwards Planning (fwd)
I'm glad you found my notes of interest. Sure pass them along to whomever
you wish. I'm of the opinion that Ackoff (who was praised by Deming and is
shown talking with Deming in the video) is the next thinker to complement
the wisdom of Deming as he takes us slightly beyond analysis and shows us
how to plan from the future backwards and use the talents of all the people
in the process!
Logistics Systems Support Center, US Army Missile Command
St. Louis, MO 63103
"Share the Light of Quality!"
Disclaimer: Opinions are mine, not Uncle Sam's.
Because backwards planning has been brought up on the list, I thought I'd
share portions of my notes from Dr. Ackoff. I highly recommend his books.
MANAGING IN THE SYSTEMS AGE
These are portions of my notes from the subject seminar given
to our managers 2/9/88, by Dr. Russell L. Ackoff, Wharton School of
Business, and noted author. In this lecture he referenced his book,
"Creating The Corporate Future: Plan or Be Planned For".
SYSTEMS. Organizations are systems. A system is more than the sum of
all its parts. Examples: Body vs brain, hand, foot. Car vs engine,
wheels, motor. A system has essential properties that none of its parts
have. It is not the sum of its parts taken separately.
SYSTEM PERFORMANCE. Performance of a system is NEVER a sum of the
performance of its individual parts but is rather a product of their
COMPARING MANAGEMENT ATTITUDE TOWARD TIME AND CHANGE
Types of Attitude Toward: Time Toward: Change
Management Past Present Future
Reactive + - - Undo
Inactive - + - Prevent Change
Preactive - - + Accelerate
*NOTE: +=favorable, -=unfavorable
TYPES OF PLANNING RELATED TO TYPES OF MANAGEMENT.
a. Reactive Management/Planning.
(1) Reactive looks at the past and wants to recreate it. Past was a
good time. Looks to history to find the "good". Is unwilling to settle
for the way things are in the present. Thinks the future will only make
things worse. Tries to undo things that have changed. Looks for "causes"
of change to return to the previous state. Examples: Prohibition and
Crime. The cause of the crime is the criminal--remove the criminal to
prison. Fact is prison only teaches criminals how to be better at
(2) In corporate planning function, the CEO wants a corp plan for next
year. The top requires it but the bottom develops it. CEO tells next
level manager he wants a plan for next year from him in 11 months and he
will roll all managerial plans with his to forward up the chain. That
manager requires plans from his reports in 10 months, same roll up. When
it gets down to the line manager it's usually an urgent deadline. The
first level's focus is on fixing immediate problems so his plan contains
about 15 problem fixes which are usually called "projects", unrelated, with
costs and benefits.
(3) The deficiency in reactive planning is its reactive
planning basis of "getting rid of what you don't want". However with this
type of planning you don't necessarily get what you do want, but probably
end up getting something you want even less.
b. Inactive Management/Planning.
(1) The inactive managers sees that the present is pretty good. The
past wasn't that great and today is better. Leave problems alone. The
future won't be that much better. Tries to maintain the "status quo".
These inactive managers practice crisis management. Also known as
"brinksmanship"--wait it you're at the brink, then jump back.
(2) The inactive managers also practice "disjointed incrementalism".
They act only when they have to, and then do very little. They suppress
the symptoms. Even if inactive managers aren't facing crises, they'd still
be very busy keeping things as they are, keeping the status quo.
c. Preactive Management/Planning.
(1) The preactive manager predicts the future and prepares for it by
(2) In preactive planning, the CEO decides where he wants the
organization to go in the the next 10 years and gets it on paper. Then he
has the forecasting staff predicts the future and then the top managers and
planning staff renegotiate the paper.
(3) The deficiencies with preactive planning are derived from a
decreasing ability to forecast the future. As you look out to the future
you make predictions which require you to change the plan, which then means
you must reforecast, change the plan, reforecast--etc. Forecasting
predicts the future as if it were based on the past. A basic but wrong
fundamental assumption of forecasting -- is that the future is determined
by the past. Function of planning should NOT be to predict the future but
to CREATE it!
(4) All methods of forecasting follow these steps:
(a) Plot data paths
(b) Draw line through points
(c) Extrapolate--drive curve out to the future
STEPS IN FORECASTING EXAMPLE
50 . THEN (forecast)
40 . Sales
20 . .
10 . .
Past NOW Future
(5) The act of planning has no effect on the environment. The purpose
of planning is to change the future. If it does change, you must
(6) The greater the distance between now and then, the more what will
happen then depends on what happens between now and then. Therefore, the
future is subject to creation, not what has happened in the past. The
function of planning should be to create the future, NOT to predict an
inevitable future and to prepare for it!
** INTERACTIVE MANAGEMENT **
The only logical type of management today focuses on systems. This
requires interactive planning which requires design and invention (acts of
creation.) Interactive management/planning denies all previous forms of
management. The definition of interactive planning is the design of a
desirable future and the invention of ways of approximating it as closely
as possible. Its essential ingredients are not planning and preparing, but
are acts of creation -- design and invention. This type cannot be placed
on the first chart.
PLANNING AND VIEWING DIFFERENCES BASED ON MANAGEMENT STYLES
WANT TO BE ______O___________O____________O_______
/\ /\ /\
R I P
<R I P>
Past Now Future
(Couldn't draw this well on the computer, but for each RIP type the arrows
go FROM Now to the WANT TO BE. The Interactive planner Starts in the WANT
TO BE and plans toward the Now.)
o The Reactive manager/planner is standing in the present, looking
back to a previous state which is preferred. The previous state is
elevated to the Want to Be. The plan is a path from Now to where one was.
o The Preactive manager/planner stands in the present and looks out
to a future state. The plan is a path from now out to the future. Forward
planning erects barriers by considering feasibility. This type of planning
has an infinite number of internal and environmental barrier potentials to
o The Inactive manager/planner stands in the present and looks at
his feet. The plan is to stay here, protect the status quo.
o What the above type managers all have in common:
- All stand IN the Present.
- All look toward Want To Be.
o The Interactive manager/planner stands in the Want to Be and plans
backward to the Now. Backward planning starts from the future and allows
you to discriminate between internally imposed and external barriers. You
become aware of and can quickly determine which is controllable. It
significantly reduces the number of alternatives that must be dealt with.
FORWARD vs BACKWARD PLANNING BARRIER COMPARISON
Frontwards sees barriers to overcome-> <-Backwards has much fewer, and
more discernable true barriers
(Ackoff went into a discussion about a Nobel Prize winning finding which
mathematically proves that backward planning is much more efficient.)
PHASES OF INTERACTIVE PLANNING.
1. Formulation of the "mess" - situational appraisal of system of
2. Ends planning - design the desirable future (IDEALIZED DESIGN)
3. Means planning - invention of ways of approximating
4. Resource planning - given means- how much required to do, what will
- people we do about the excess?/shortfall?
- materials, energy devices
5. Design the implementation and control it