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Working Backwards Through a Process

Start at the beginning and go to the end, right?  That’s how we do things – start at the beginning and go through each step as it should be.

So often I see teams working this way when laying out how a process should be (or should be improved).  It’s natural and logical for us to start at the beginning and go step by step through each thing that we want to have happen to get to the end.

It’s also often what facilitates bloat and non-value added steps into our processes and systems.

Here’s an alternative way – start at the end.  Focus on what outcomes you want to achieve out of your system.  Think about the results you are looking for and then work backwards to identify what is needed to get that result one step at a time but in reverse order.

Here’s an example – say you have a system for onboarding new customers.  Think about what you want out of this system:  customer informed on how to use the service you offer, customer excited to use your service, and a customer that knows how to pay their bill on time.

Work backwards – what do you need to do to ensure the customer is informed?  Send them an invite to your training videos.

What do you need to send them an invite to your training videos?  They need to be set up in the CRM system.

What do you need to set them up in the CRM system?  They need to submit their basic details including name, email address along with order details.

Move to the next piece – what do you need to do to get the customer excited about using your service?  Match them up with an internal customer success manager that will show the customer the most important features.

What do you need to set the customer up with a success manager?  And so on…

With each step you add, think about its relationship to the desired outcomes and value of your system. 

By working backwards, people focus more on the outputs required for the step they are working backwards from.  Everything in the system has a purpose specific to the desired outcomes, limiting the additional steps that come when working from a starting point and moving forward.

It’s not super easy to start at the end and work backwards, but with a little practice, it will become second nature and provide you with more focused, more efficient processes and systems!

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