Monday, October 25, 2021


For every individual or an organization, a back view mirror is very important to learn from errors, mistakes, or shortcomings; and a “backward” approach from the future state is a logical approach to lead change and innovation.

We are living in a complex world where disruptions and conflicts are continuously happening. Looking back can teach you invaluable lessons and become well-prepared for the journey ahead. We cannot predict anything beforehand but can imagine with many experiences involved in the present or in the past. 

As the saying’s going: History repeats itself. Some things from the past are circular and keep coming back in. How should individual organizations look into the past or work backwards accordingly, in order to move forward confidently?

Change review, reflection, and recognition in business transformation efforts: Change is intense nowadays, lack of breathing space between change initiatives is often an issue. In practice, often when a change initiative is completed, people walk away without enough self-reflection and thoughtful checking to see if it adds value or evaluate if additional work is required. Without taking a breath to look back and learning critical lessons, people would repeat the mistakes they made before, get exhausted if they keep busy on taking more change initiatives with the same level of cognitive ability and behavior patterns. Either at individual or business level, you need to build in time for reflection which enables you to be conscious of your circumstances, and allows you to perform in a strategic and informed manner for driving change, especially transformative ones for achieving the better than expected results.

Changeability is a unique competency, organizational change management should be an adequate, logical, and systematic effort to any environmental shift. It must be defined in its base elements such as process, structure, culture, and associated benefits to be achieved. Work on an opportunity and then figure out what is the capability needed, what is the desired level of process, structure, and culture maturity. During such a process, they come with principles, best practices; repository establishment, standards formulation, governance establishment, think backward from there to what the next simpler step is; and then back to what are the next simpler components, back to what they have at hand. It takes truly strategic thinking and foresight to shape transformative changes, learn from its historical roots, keep the light on, and make a long term plan for the future.

Applying retrosynthesis to innovative problem-solving: Many of today’s problems are complex and interdependent; some of them are actually caused by previous solutions to other historical problems; others are symptoms of uncovered issues or concerns. Thus, learning from the past and digging through the historical root of problems are critical steps in shaping structural solutions. It means working through problems forward and backward iteratively to make sure there are no errors or gaps, to analyze the root conditions & causes that apply, to investigate the various solution options, to decide, to act, and then to cycle around. Ultimately, problem-solving capabilities evolve and move from the fundamental level to differentiated levels between categories based on the technology breakthrough, business driver, or societal evolution.

Technically, during the retrospective problem-solving scenario, the teams reflect on what happened in the iteration, identify gaps and take actions to fill them for moving forward. It is the process started at the “ideal state” - the unified perspective of “the problem gets solved thoroughly” based on clarified vision and diverse viewpoints. Then, take a logical scenario and scientific methodologies; whenever people start applying the scientific method of observing, creating hypotheses and taking retrosynthesis procedures to approve or disprove those hypotheses, eliminating outdated knowledge, practices, and driving desired results.

Benchmarking can provide a backwards-looking perspective:
Benchmarking is the process of comparing one's business processes and performance metrics to industry bests or best practices from other companies. The benchmarking data, necessarily, refers to how both the peer group and your own organization has performed in the past. That often varies wildly from how the peer group is performing now, and from what your own organization wants or needs to do next. It provides a backwards-looking perspective upon whether the metrics can reveal anything meaningful for the identified purpose.

Benchmarking provides people across the organization with a common business language regarding processes, metrics, key issues, and outcomes. Get on the same page of measurable things. It’s an effective tool to gauge where the organization leads or lags; easily identify and prioritize business opportunities and assess risks systematically. It is far more important to understand your own current state & strategic goals, to gather rapid feedback regarding current performance and progress made toward those goals Business leaders with a benchmarking mindset can better define the right strategy for their organization by understanding their business’s capabilities objectively as well as gaining enough knowledge about their competitors and marketing conditions.

Historical lessons are important, as the old saying puts: “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." For every individual or an organization, a back view mirror is very important to learn from errors, mistakes, or shortcomings; and a “backward” approach from the future state is a logical approach to lead change. The past holds comforting thoughts in times of great stress or pain; it has value. However, the future brings hope and true meaning. Keep your focus in the direction of your destination and only glance at the past necessarily to stay aware of where you have been. The goal is to learn from the past, think ahead, to prepare and face the challenges and uncertainty on the way to the future.


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