Identifying Startup Success: Use Backward Planning to establish Milestones & Metrics

We’ve all done it as children when working out a maze. Start from your endpoint and work backwards to the start. This same approach works for mapping out the path to startup success – Start from your endpoint and work backwards to the present.

Identify your goal and then design the steps that will help you arrive efficiently at your objective.

This allows you to create metrics for determining whether you have successfully accomplished your goals.

Peter Drucker wrote,

“Work implies not only that somebody is supposed to do the job, but also accountability, a deadline and, finally, the measurement of results…”

Milestones and metrics are the keys to growing and funding startup business. “Backward Planning” is a useful tool for creating these milestones and metrics.

5 Steps of Backward Planning

  1.  Identify Desired End State.

    The first step is to determine where you are going. If you do not understand your ultimate goal, you will not know when you get there. You do not have to define everything that may happen; however, you must understand significant events that define “success” at various stages of the development of your company. Most entrepreneurs will develop an exit strategy.

  1. Identify Intermediate Goals.

    There are always subordinate objectives that are essential to the accomplishment of some significant outcome. These are not stopping points, they are way stations toward the ultimate objective. Once these have been established, determine how you can tell if you have accomplished the task. What specific quantifiable elements define the objective? They can be purely objective or subjective in nature. These factors become the benchmarks or metrics you will use to measure progress.

  1. Link Resources to Objectives.

    Each event requires resources (time, capital or equipment, etc.) to be accomplished. Clearly identify these requirements and link them to the goals.This will allow you to understand overlaps and resolve conflicts. You can’t use the same resources to simultaneously accomplish two different tasks. Either additional resources must be found or the schedule adjusted accordingly.

  2. Establish Milestones.

    This entails creating a timeline for the accomplishment of intermediate steps. These are essential checkpoints along the way. Typically, many items can be working in parallel (at the same time). This is the most efficient way to program work. However, there are always some items that will substantively stop the entire program if left unfinished. Often, these Critical Path events will set the basis for your milestones. They require specific attention in the planning process because they must be accomplished before you can move forward.

  3. Execute.

    Without action, the plan is useless. Remember, you must build in flexibility because nothing will unfold the way you want.

Another element that will help plan your strategy – learn from your peers mistakes. This will help you avoid wasting time, effort, and funds as your build your business.

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Dave Clark

Dave Clark taught Strategy at West Point and is a co-founder of FundingSage, which provides valuable information, tools and resources to entrepreneurs seeking to start, grow and fund a business.