Backcasting as a strategic management tool for meeting VUCA challenges

Kent Thorén (Department of Industrial Management, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden)
Martin Vendel (Department of Industrial Management, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden)

Journal of Strategy and Management

ISSN: 1755-425X

Publication date: 9 May 2019

Abstract

Purpose

Backcasting helps managers involve and align the organization throughout a strategy process. Its core idea is creating a logical path from a depicted future back to the present, to share, analyze and manage strategic challenges. Still its use in strategic management is under-researched. The purpose of this paper is to verify the relevance and validity of backcasting as a strategic management tool. It also analyzes and structures knowledge about backcasting and its practical application in strategic management.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper employs desktop research method to outline the benefits and limitations of backcasting for strategy formation under VUCA conditions.

Findings

Backcasting can help organizations overcome cognitive barriers and broaden the scope of options when analyzing future positions. The research provides insights regarding the potential and limitations of backcasting when addressing uncertainty and its drivers. For instance, it helps managers to assess and align visions; increase the understanding and clarity regarding complex dependencies; as well as improve strategic agility.

Practical implications

Backcasting is exceptionally useful for investigating possible futures and alternative paths to it. Backcasting is an interactive workshop-based method that challenges prevailing mindsets by assuming we are in the future, looking back towards today to find a feasible path when major transitions are necessary. With it, managers can deal with even the most uncertain decisions in a structured manner.

Originality/value

Backcasting for many reasons has a great potential as a tool for strategy development. It has been successfully applied in other fields but only to a limited extent in business. This paper formally examines its applicability in this context and demonstrates its relevance for dealing with VUCA challenges.

Keywords

Citation

Thorén, K. and Vendel, M. (2019), "Backcasting as a strategic management tool for meeting VUCA challenges", Journal of Strategy and Management, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 298-312. https://doi.org/10.1108/JSMA-10-2017-0072

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Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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