On the subject of backcasting, in 1993 we did a form of backcasting in HR that
proved quite effective. We called it backwards planning and it resulted in a
breakthrough in how we looked at our HR practices and strategies.
We performed an extensive inventory of our HR activities including our daily
work, our processes, and our new initiatives. We also developed the
vision of the attributes of a desired workforce. The problem became linking
these with the company objectives and demonstrating evolving capabilities over
In the past, we would develop strategies for each HR activity in a forward
fashion. This would result in independent plans for compensation or education
and training, or performance management as examples. How one strategy affected
another and what the resulting environment would look like was not clear.
Instead, we started with each attribute and worked backwards to identify which
of the many activities, played a part in establishing the vision. To do this,
we listed each of the HR activities down the left side of a wall and each of
the attributes down the right side. The middle was reseved for evolving
capabilites over time. We established a time line across the bottom to mark
expectations for each capability and to establish ongoing measures of progress.
We began with an attribute, such as involved people initiate improvements,
moving to the left, we defined various capabilities that would need to occur at
particular points in time. They, in turn would link directly back to which of
the existing HR activities would need to be involved/changed in order to reach
the desired attribute. In this example, capabilities included broadened job
descriptions, cooperative labor agreements, teaming, shared visions, open
communications, and others. These then linked to compensation, training, labor
relations, performance management, communication, etc. This process showed us
that many different activities played some role in establishing the various
attributes and that we needed to focus all of them toward the common goal: the
attributes. Strategies and tactics could flow from each link that occurred and
each evolving capability was then tied to the measures.
We are now embarking on the development of a desired culture to embrace both
business objectives and people practices. I am considering ways of using this
planning technique in bringing vast amount of information and ideas together.
-- Dave Reed (206)655-3245 M/S 11-04 Internet Address: firstname.lastname@example.org