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Learn how to set great goals

Goals and planning

‘A vision without execution is delusion’

- Thomas A. Edison


There’s lots of tools to help you put your business plans in place. You could use a business plan, financial forecast, or strategic roadmap. But how do you know what’s right for you?

To set your goals and plan for your future, you’ll need to know about the different types of planning and goal setting that exist. We’ll run through a couple of examples to help you think about setting them for your own business. Then you’ll learn about the steps that make up the backcasting technique and how you can make them work for you.

What types of planning are there?


Breaks down the day-to-day running and key activities a company performs, often across different areas.

Generally operational plans go into detail of who does what, and what resource you need to do it.


Outlines the steps and actions that must be taken to achieve the goals from the strategic plan.

It breaks down the plan into short and medium term goals.


Defines a strategy, or direction for the business, and plans its high-level execution.

Often uses tools like scenario planning and financial forecasting to map out actions.


Puts plans in place to respond to unexpected situations, or if something needs to be changed.

These plans underpin everything the business does.

What is backcasting?

Backcasting is a great tool to develop a robust strategic roadmap for your business. It’s a reverse-forecasting technique. It forms part of your strategic planning and lets you break down the key milestones you want to reach (to get to your overall vision) into smaller goals.

Start at the end

It starts with defining a desirable future and then works backwards to identify steps that will connect the future you want to the present. Ask yourself: ‘if we want to achieve this goal, what actions do we take to get there?’

How to use backcasting

You can use it together with forecasting to create a strong strategic roadmap for your business. It’s often easier to start small and build it out as you go, looking at one area at a time. Once you’ve got your high-level milestones, you can break them up into smaller, SMART goals, which will form your shorter term operational and tactical plans. And any plans for your business should be a live document, so you can come back to it at any time and work through the steps again.

Ready to go? Here’s the 5 steps of backcasting

  1. Set the timeframe – how long is your timescale from present to your future vision?
  2. Baseline the current state – where are you right now? Do you have everything you need?
  3. Define possible future states – where would you like to be? This is where your vision comes in.
  4. Work back identifying key milestones – what are the key actions you need to take to get back from your visions to the present day?
  5. Identify any risks, opportunities and challenges – what could hold you back or stop you from doing what you want to?

Tip: Do this exercise using sticky notes so you can move things around and edit as necessary.

How to set yourself great goals

Using the S.M.A.R.T goal setting system is one way to create goals that’ll help you move forward. Each of the letters relates to a different goal area, and they’ll all help you to set goals that you can learn from. If you can make the steps of your backcasting S.M.A.R.T, then you’ll find you should get them ticked off your list.

  1. S

    Be specific around the detail of the goal so you're clear on what needs to be achieved.

  2. M

    Define how you are going to measure success and when the goal is completed.

  3. A

    Interrogate whether the goal is realistic and achievable.

  4. R

    Make sure the goal is part of your wider strategy and a step to your overall vision.

  5. T

    Have a clear deadline for when you aim to achieve this goal by.

Other ways you could use backcasting

With others

As an orientation or collaboration tool with the rest of the team.

To plan for the future

To map out and challenge different future scenarios.

To spot opportunities

To identify future opportunities and risks with coaching questions like why, how, when, where.

With other planning tools

In conjunction with forecasting to create a robust, strategic roadmap.

Continue to develop a strategic plan for your business by:

  • Inviting others to help interrogate your plans and identify any risks or opportunities
  • Joining one of our wrap-around events to help you build out your strategic plans further
  • Finding out more about contingency planning