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The Power of Using Reverse Planning for Your Projects

Austin Font

I’ve been working on strategic projects, small and large, for the last 6 years, and one thing that has always frustrated me is how difficult it can be to see the big picture. When I started out, there were no project management software tools like Twigflo that could help us plan projects more effectively. We had to write everything down on paper or use pencil-and-paper organizers like shareable spreadsheets and whiteboards—which isn’t exactly fun when you have multiple projects going on at once!

Reverse planning is an approach to projects where you start at the end and work backwards.

Reverse planning is a project management approach that allows you to plan your projects by working backwards from the end. The idea is that if you start at your goal and work in reverse, you can create a more effective plan for getting there. A 2017 joint study by Peking University HSBC Business School (China) and the University of Iowa found that complex projects warrant a reverse-planning approach. (Jooyoung, P. & Hedgcock, W, 2017). The study validated previous research which hypothesized and validated similar ideas regarding the effects of reverse-engineering on individual and team performance.

In reverse planning, instead of starting with the initial tasks and then moving onto subsequent tasks until you reach completion, you do just the opposite: start with what needs to be achieved and then work back through each step until it meets its own criteria. This method has several benefits over traditional forward planning because it helps ensure that all steps in your process are accounted for—no matter how small they may seem or how far away from completion they might be.

In simple terms, reverse-planning is working your way backwards by determining your goals and breaking them down.

It helps you answer the question of why a project exists by thinking about what it should do for your organization and how it will impact your customers, before you get into how to build it.

When you use reverse planning, you can begin to ask the right questions. These include:

  • Why do we need this project?
  • How will this project impact our customers?
  • How will this project impact our organization?

The two main goals of reverse planning are:

  • Create a narrative that focuses on the WHY rather than the HOW. This is the most important part of reverse planning, as it helps everyone involved in or affected by your project to understand why they are doing what they're doing. It also makes it easier to engage stakeholders who might otherwise be reluctant to participate.
  • Bring together all stakeholders involved in or affected by the project early in the process (and keep them together). When you use this method, you make decisions together instead of making them separately and hoping everything will come together at some point later on down the road. This way, everyone's needs are considered from day one so that conflicts don't pop up later on when things have already been built out or printed out for distribution purposes!

Goal 1: To create an overarching narrative for the project that focuses on the WHY rather than the HOW, and that provides context for everyone involved.

You'll be asking questions like:

  • Why are we doing this project? What is the purpose of our work?
  • How will the project impact my organization and my customers? What's in it for them?
  • How will the project affect our stakeholders, such as investors or community members?
  • How will this affect me and my team members directly (i.e., their jobs)?

Goal 2: To bring together all stakeholders involved in or affected by the project so they can contribute ideas and collaborate with each other.

To achieve this goal, you need to:

  • Involve all stakeholders. The more people who are involved in the reverse planning process, the more likely it is that a project will be successful and meet its objectives. This can be a challenge when it comes to time and budget constraints; however, there are ways to bring people together without overwhelming them with information or making them feel like their input is not valued.
  • Encourage collaboration between departments through cross-functional meetings or open office spaces where everyone works together or near each other. If possible, encourage different departments' leaders to attend these meetings so they can provide feedback on what's working well (or not) with their team members' current processes, strategies, and results metrics - all of which impact how efficiently your company operates as a whole!

This approach ensures that no one is left out or surprised by decisions that have been made without their input, as often happens with traditional planning.

In traditional planning, decisions are made and then communicated to the project team. However, this approach often leaves some people feeling like they were left out of the process or surprised by decisions that have been made without their input. This can be frustrating for employees and make them less likely to feel invested in achieving your project's goals.

To avoid these issues, reverse planning is a way to involve everyone in the process from start to finish. It helps you get everyone on the same page—from higher-level managers all the way down through lower-level contributors—and ensures that no one gets left out or surprised by decisions that have been made without their input as often happens with traditional planning.

Dealing with external dependencies early in the process makes it easier to manage them as things move forward. I encourage teams to think about outside influences that may affect their plans, including regulations, timeframes, budget restrictions and channel access.

External dependencies can be anything from regulatory approval to timeframes, budget restrictions, or channel access. When you're building a project plan for your team, think about the external factors that might affect it. If there's something you don't know yet and have no control over, make sure you build slack into the plan so that if an unexpected event occurs (for example: if the regulatory approval process takes longer than expected), your team will still be able to move forward without having to redo all their work.

If there are critical timelines like regulatory approval or submitting a proposal for funding that has to be built into each phase of development before moving on—think about how those go into reverse planning as well so that they're accounted for in advance. This way when it comes time for development or testing or release management (or whatever) everyone knows where they stand with all these important milestones and what needs to get done by when in order not only stay on track but also hit deadlines consistently

When you’re clear on what these factors are, you can create a strategy to deal with them upfront rather than having to react later when they come up unexpectedly.

When you’re clear on what these factors are, you can create a strategy to deal with them upfront rather than having to react later when they come up unexpectedly. For example, if you know that your team has limited time or money available for their project, it makes sense to prioritize the things that will give them the most bang for their buck.

Once you have identified all of these external factors, then use reverse planning techniques to build a roadmap for how your team will tackle each one over time.

The other advantage of looking ahead during reverse planning is being able to anticipate critical timelines like regulatory approval or submitting a proposal for funding so you can build them into your timeline.

Reverse planning is a powerful tool for project managers because it allows them to look at the big picture, think about all of the tools and resources they need, and then create a timeline. By using reverse planning, project managers can anticipate critical timelines like regulatory approval or submitting a proposal for funding so they can build them into their timeline.

Reverse planning in Twigflo

Twigflo is the best tool for implementing reverse planning for your projects. Here's how reverse planning works in Twiglfo, how to do it, and how it can benefit your workflow:

In reverse planning, you begin by thinking about the end result that you want to achieve. From there, you figure out what steps are needed in order for those results to happen — which often means breaking down large goals into smaller tasks that need to be completed along the way. We call these steps "twigs". The process of breaking down your giant twigs into smaller twigs helps break down larger projects into smaller chunks so they're easier for people on your team to understand and execute quickly. During this process, you'll see that Twigflo links your twigs all the way to your project goal and you'll be able to visualize what needs to be done to complete your project successfully.

Conclusion

By using the reverse-planning method, you can be sure your projects will succeed. Try it out on one of your own and let us know how it goes by emailing feedback@twigflo.com!

Citations
Jooyoung, P., Lu, F., Hedgcock, W. (2017). Forward and Backward Planning and Goal Pursuit. Psychological Science. DOI:10.1177/0956797617715510