Imagining your future

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Premortem and backcasting are potent tools that help you make better decisions and achieve your goals. They both help you imagine your future, one from a pessimistic lens and one from an optimistic lens.

Premortem

A premortem is a process that involves imagining that a project or decision has already failed and then brainstorming reasons for that failure. This helps to uncover potential problems and pitfalls that may not have been considered and allows teams to take proactive steps to mitigate those risks.

To conduct a premortem, professionals can follow these steps:

  1. Identify the goal or decision that is being considered.
  2. Determine a reasonable period for achieving the goal or deciding to play out.
  3. Imagine the day after that period when the plan was not completed, or the decision worked out poorly.
  4. Independently list up to five reasons why the failure occurred due to your own decisions and actions or those of your team.
  5. List up to five reasons the failure occurred due to things outside your control.
  6. If conducting the premortem as a team exercise, have each member complete steps 4 and 5 and then come together to discuss the reasons.

Backcasting

Backcasting is a similar process, but it involves imagining a project or decision that has already been successful and then brainstorming reasons for that success. This helps teams to identify the steps and actions that need to be taken to achieve their goals.

To conduct a backcast, professionals can follow these steps:

  1. Identify the goal or decision that is being considered.
  2. Determine a reasonable period for achieving the goal or deciding to play out.
  3. Imagine that the plan was completed the day after that period, or the decision worked well.
  4. Independently list up to five reasons the success occurred due to your choices and actions or those of your team.
  5. List up to five reasons the success occurred due to things outside your control.
  6. If conducting the backcast as a team exercise, have each member complete steps 4 and 5 and then come together to discuss the reasons.

Both premortem and backcasting can be valuable tools, as they help you to anticipate and plan for potential challenges and opportunities and to make more informed decisions. You now know what it takes to avoid failures and what you need to succeed.

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