Firstly, a target situation in a long-term future (e.g. a heavily desired scenario with a time horizon of usually 10 years or a previously developed vision) is defined as a common goal and the basis for any further consideration of the working group.
In the second stage, alternative paths to the target scenario are broken down by looking back in time from this hypothetically desired future to the present. Here, the participants discuss and elaborate how in retrospect, beginning at the far end of the timetable, a development could be feasibly reconstructed. Once a reasonable agreement on the path from the future to the present-day situation has been achieved, the next step can be initiated.
In the third phase, individual steps are isolated and defined in more detail. Where must an entity be in exactly 1, 2,3 or 4 years in order to reach its goal in 2030? What are specific restrictions, time constraints and aspects that are interrelated, reliant on other crucial developments. What is essential, what is optional and what should be the main focal point in achieving the vision? Here, a healthy debate is productive. Similar to the steps before and after, they could be completed by an individual, provide however, much better results in a group setting.
Once the tangible steps are worked out, the final stage is heralded. The result of this exercise is an understanding and overview of each participant concerning the different options and possible pathways to action. The output is an actionable impression of how different aspects fit together hierarchically in time. Done correctly, Backcasting provides a detailed roadmap entailing imminent crucial actions needing to be put into motion to ensure the ability to reach self-set goals in a long-term time horizon.