Step Back Analysis Methodology
3 June 2019
by Daniel-Jean Simard


Life, as you know, is always without any issues … everything always goes to plan … no surprises! So who needs a Step Back Analysis?

Well, I must be living under a rock because we all know this is not reality. Don’t get me wrong, I wish it was that way … but since I am not in that position (and nor are you), we get faced through our different initiatives, with road blocks or unplanned issues which may cause disturbances in our progress.

So what do we need to do? How can we, as managers, analyze these situations efficiently? This is where a Step Back Analysis Methodology comes into play.

(Quick note: This document is by no mean a training on the methodology but a high-level description so that you can understand the essence. Also, this is one version of a Step Back Analysis Methodology and there are several out there following different approaches with different flavours. You are free to pick and choose and even combine.)



So what is a Step Back Analysis after all … well it’s as simple as what the name implies. The concept is to approach an issue and brainstorm logically on how to get beyond that issue.



Usually, the Step Back Analysis is triggered when we get to a point of a “Go/NoGo” critical milestones.

A blocker if you like. This all depends on the criticality, and you and your team will be the judge of that, but in order to identify what it will be, we need to Step Back. However, a Step Back can also be accomplished when there is a simple need of an improvement. Several things may come out after the Analysis, such as a Restructured Project Plan, Realigned Critical Path or even a complete Recovery Plan.

Throughout your Journey, which is part of the Journey Management Methodology, or when you are dealing with Risks in you Risk Management Methodology, you may find that it’s important to take that step back.



In order to do a Step Back Analysis, it is important to clearly identify which issue we want to deal with and concentrate on THAT ONE ISSUE ONLY. It has to be as precise as possible otherwise you will not be able to devise a proper plan to resolve it. This means that you may end up having to do multiple Step Back Analysis and then combine their results into a resolution plan.

Throughout this document you will see us referring to the GOLDEN RULE, well that’s just a term to refer to a best practice based on Emyode’s experience in the field which, obviously, can be adapted to how you feel comfortable with. But at least it gives you a concept to start testing and applying a proper Step Back Analysis approach.

Having said that, let’s go through the process:


As stated previously, it is important to make sure that your issue is precise and concise. It has to reflect only a SINGLE ISSUE which can be resolve. If you see multiple issues, divide them in clear statements and focus on them all separately.


Now that you have a Clear and Precise issue, you need to start listing the Positive and Negative issues and when I say listing I mean ALL of them. Don’t hold back … list in TWO separate columns all of the POSITIVES and the NEGATIVES related to the issue. Don’t think of any sequence or priorities of any kind … just list all as soon as they come to your mind. When I say “Your Mind” this does not mean by yourself … you can do this as a team effort or do it separately and then combine; you choose the approach that is best for you.



  • Do NOT limit the Positives or Negatives.
  • Do NOT try to prioritize, that will come later.
  • Don’t worry about Duplicates, you will clean that up later.



Now that you have your list, you need to prioritize them. Take each list separately and reorganize each item within that list in a descending order. Don’t think of the other list when you do this, it will come in a later phase. For now, reorganize it and clean it up as you go because you may find that some of them are repetitive or that they are similar enough that they should be combined into one and don’t worry, things will move up or down frequently. That is part of the exercise.

Once you’re done with your first list … guess what! You have the other one to do.



  • Prioritize each list SEPARATELY.
  • Clean up DUPLICATE statements.
  • Combine SIMILAR statements together by REPHRASING them, DO NOT keep them separate, otherwise it will just create confusion.



Both lists, meaning the Positives and the Negatives lists, have been prioritized in descending order but there has to be a relationship between both lists. This will not be easy and will require a lot of back and forth, so just keep that in mind.

I need to take a moment to explain why it is important to synchronize the Positives and the Negatives. The reason is, and to be honest with you, it is not something we actually realize, but when you take a good look at what works and what doesn’t work you will find that for some of them it’s just an alignment or a small adjustment needed to bring the negative to a positive. Reason is that we are usually partly doing things the right way, it’s just that sometimes we are not all aboard as a team, or it is purely a communication issue, and these are just some examples.

Now back to the subject, the goal here is to prioritize the TOP 5 Negatives that you must change and the related Positives in order to be able to get a Priority List of what your Plan will look like.

Here is the approach to do this:

  1. It is better that you begin to Prioritize the NEGATIVES list first. Go through the entire list and pick and choose the Top 5. Make sure that you are comfortable that the 5 items that you’ve listed would bring a resolution to the issues you had selected.
  2. Then prioritize the POSITIVES list, again focusing on coming up to the top 5 only which are related to the issue you had identified.
  3. Once you’ve completed the prioritization of both lists, it is time to ALIGN both together so that each NEGATIVE which needs to be addressed should ALIGN to a POSITIVE. The reason for this is that it gives you the relationship path in order to be able to correct the negative points which have been identified.



  • Prioritize ONLY 5 negative points (see below for further information).
  • Always ALIGN each negative points and positive points.



I’ve mentioned several times in this document “Top 5” … reason is that as part of properly managing efforts it is better to limit ourselves and the Magic Number I propose is always 5. The goal is not to overload yourself. You can easily work with 5 and make sure that what you’re dealing with… you can obtain results in a timely manner. And don’t worry, you know that you have more stuff on your list, so just add to it when you’ve completed one.

This approach applies to pretty much everything. You should never dilute yourself too much because your accomplishment will take too long and you may lose focus and interest and get disappointed because of it.

Now that this is out of the way …


You have your prioritization done so now you have to create work plans to make it happen. I know that some of these points may be resolved within a single task, and that is fine. But it still needs to me managed and executed in order, with deadlines. Most of the time, this work plan is created and managed separately from any other work plans you may have going because, as mentioned, this is usually done as a corrective measure or as a decision process.

Make sure that you break down with as many tasks as possible and also to include Milestones since this is part of a corrective plan. As for which methodology you use to manage your project, it doesn’t matter.



  • Create a SEPARATE work plan for these action items.
  • Detail EACH action item with TASKS.
  • Include MILESTONES in order to ensure progress points.




The Step Back Analysis Methodology is there to help you to say “Time Out, we need to think about this!”. It helps you brainstorm and, if I may say “brain dump” the issues in order to correct them instead of letting them fester. It’s very easy to be negative about things, but in order to be happy we need to resolve those issues and that’s what this methodology is all about.

… yep, Conclusion means you’ve reached the end … until next time!

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