Driving by Looking in the Rearview Mirror

Over the years, while listening to various experts in different business management methodologies, I’ve often heard this driving analogy. “You would not drive a car by looking in the rearview mirror”. In fact, I’ve probably used this analogy myself.

With the coming a the new year, the analogy could be used again to refer to moving ahead with life, new decisions, new opportunities, even new resolutions. One need not be bound by the past. The future is yet to be written.

However, as with many analogies, this one can also be taken to an extreme. Some would say to Never look back – Only move forward.

In driving a car, I find it very useful to know: Where I came from? What route did I take? What resources did I use in the trip? How long did it take? What hazards were along the way? What could I have done better? Even, What did I enjoy the most about the scenery?

Certainly, this may be more than looking in the rear view mirror. I did look out the side windows, the rear window, the mirrors, and at the dashboard. Perhaps, I stopped at a scenic view to appreciate nature and my surroundings. Perhaps, I shared observations with my spouse and children. Yes, I did look most of the time to the front to observe the road, read road signs, assess approaching potential hazards, and to target my destination. At times, I would slow down, speed up, turn sharply, or make gradual adjustments.

In business, I advocate modeling the business together with planning and budgeting. All of the actions I took while driving have business equivalents. The business needs to understand its product quality, product cost, customer profitability, and business processes both in the past and in its planned future. Most importantly, the business, thru its people, is learning and growing. It is developing its ability to respond to changes in the business climate.

My rearview mirror is one of my many options. One that I use all the time.