You are probably wondering where I got hold of a crystal ball, but you don’t need one of those or any other ‘psychic’ tricks to read the future. In an odd way we already know what the future will be within reason. How? Well the clue is in the fact it has either happened before or there are probably only a limited number of likely outcomes anyway……

Still puzzled? Let me explain by introducing you to a technique that I have used many times over the years with real work groups and teams to do just that, predict the future and plan to prevent things that might stop us from being successful. Oh, and by the way the double negative in the last sentence? Quite intentional!

Here’s how it works:

Firstly decide what you would not like to happen. A problem or situation that would be serious or even life threatening to you, the team or the business.

As an example let’s take a serious car accident. (On a personal note, I do sincerely hope no-one reading this has had that experience, I wouldn’t want to be so insensitive. I use this scenario purely to illustrate the methodology)

Now instead of listing ways of preventing this from happening, we deliberately take the opposite view and actively seek to create the problem i.e.

How could we ensure we have a serious car accident?

You may have noticed that when you ask people for solutions they are not that forthcoming. However when you ask them what the problems are they contribute so much more. This approach recognises that dynamic and any answers are allowed, however silly they may at first sound!

Here are some typical replies to that question above:

Cover the windscreen

Fit bald tyres

Drive on the wrong side of the road

I have listed only 3 points to illustrate the method, and it is not unusual to get 30 or 40 responses. I’m sure you can think of many more.

What you do next is the key step. Take each point, one at a time, and reverse theLOGIC (not just the words)

So, what’s the opposite of cover the windscreen? It probably leads you to thinking about having good visibility. We might therefore write down

‘Clean all windows, lights and spectacles or even have an eye test’ 

The opposite of ‘Fit bald tyres’ might be:

‘Check tread depths and pressures and other things like oil and water’

The opposite of ‘Drive on the wrong side of the road’ leads to many things such as:

‘Brush up on the highway code, take an advanced driving test, observe road signs, don’t drive when overly tired etc, etc..’

I’m sure by now you get the idea. Now sit back and look at the list you have created, it’s what we refer to as a Prevention Checklist. If you implement all of these things and make sure you follow them through, what is the outcome?

Well, the chances of you having that accident are now significantly reduced but remember, it has not happened yet, and hopefully never will…..

You have effectively predicted the future and even changed it for the better!

Applying this technique in the business with a team of people engenders real ownership of the prevention ideas. I have used this in many business situations and the outcome has consistently been improved processes, happier employees, fewer problems and issues, more profitable, less waste and so on. I highly recommend you give it a go. Also very happy to come and talk to you about it in more detail.

Julian Hammond – TIPS for Good Management