Future Back Thinking - A New Way to Navigate Through Crisis - in conversation with Niven Al-Khoury

Insights from Leaders
4 min readSep 16, 2021
Image from Unsplash by Tomasz Frankowski

A sequence of sudden, unplanned, and unexpected events leads to instability in an organization and may cause major unrest amounts employees — this is called a crisis. Leaders and managers play an extremely crucial role during a crisis. Leading from the front with authenticity, confidence, steadiness, and integrity — is the only way to take charge in such times.

Niven Al- Khoury has witnessed a number of such crises during her career. From the Arab Spring to the COVID-19 pandemic, she has been a healthcare champion and inspiring leader and navigated the way through tough situations.

We are in conversation with Niven Al-Khoury, strategic business partner and champion of sustainable growth. Niven leads with a purpose, and she leads teams to work together — in order to perform in perfect sync and create a feeling of trust, harmony, and focus. She further delves into an interesting approach she uses — future back thinking.

You are able to foresee crises, take action in time, and achieve desired results. How do you manage to do this, whilst keeping your eye on the ball and ensuring those around you are on the same path?

“Crisis is inevitable. It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when. This is especially true when working in the healthcare industry. Crises can come in any shape or size. Organizations may face internal problems with operational systems, technology or leadership, or be involved in much larger global currents. As a leader, I always try to maintain a plan of action to deal with any problem. Whether it is employee training or simply communicative leadership, effective crisis management not only allows organizations to overcome the present but also brings out empathy and cultivates employee engagement.

“As a leader, it is my duty to constantly operate in crisis mode — you never know when one may arise. Authority, financial resources, staff management, ensuring every patient is cared for, and so on — forces and almost fosters my firefighter nature — moving, and effectively tackling, one crisis after another.

“My approach to dealing with organizational obstacles has been to use the future-back thinking method. Future back thinking is a unique approach to strategy and organizational development that empowers my team and I to envision breakthrough initiatives and kickstart long-term growth. I further implement the needful to bring the plans to life. This is an extremely useful skill in healthcare because being able to think about the future and then making important decisions is crucial. Especially in times of crisis like we are facing now.

“Aside from that, I have a number of other aspects I keep at the forefront of my leadership method as well. Let me tell you a little bit about each one.

“Open ways of communication are so crucial. Getting close to the team, understanding their challenges, and remaining extremely authentic — all guided me through the crisis. During times of crisis, I have to remind my team that we are there for a purpose — that communication was key. This was essential during the Arab Spring. Our patients tied us together and enforced the feeling of wanting to do what we were doing. Highlighting that mission and remaining patient-focused was essential. Our supply chains and products could never be interrupted — we were not in a position to afford any kinds of delays. I had employees who would volunteer to sleep over at our sites to ensure that no manufacturing sites were interrupted or tampered with. I lead with a purpose and we needed solidarity in our spirits — which my team and I had.

“Another thing which was constantly on my mind was identifying potential obstacles and anticipating how and when we may have to take action. This could be a variety of things — from interruptions in value chains to getting medication to patients in time. This is again, similar to future-back thinking.

“Working in an industry like healthcare in such unprecedented times was a challenge for sure, and now in a way, it has been repeated with the onset of the pandemic. All the points I covered in terms of how I led and approached the situation, have been so important in staying on top of things and putting patients first.”

Thanks for sharing, Niven.



Insights from Leaders

Insights from Leaders is a platform where people with a vision can share their ideas and insights.