Working BackwardsWorking Backwards

Working Backwards Template

Determine whether a new product or feature is worth building.

About the Working Backwards Template

The working backwards approach was pioneered by Amazon, based on one of their leadership principles celebrating customer obsession. The method requires anyone with a new product or feature idea to articulate its objective as clearly as possible. 

The model also calls on the team writing the objective documents to sell their idea internally. If the idea presentation impresses leadership, the next step is to map out what the team needs in order to get to the product or feature launch.

Keep reading to learn more about the working backwards approach.

What is the working backwards approach

Working backwards is a framework for thinking about a product without a detailed roadmap. Your product team would work back from a mental image of the customer to launch your product in a way that truly serves them. 

This working backwards document can take many forms – from a blog post to a press release envisioning the product or feature launch as if it were happening today.

Ideally, you’d describe:

  • Who your customer is

  • What the customer opportunity or challenge is

  • What the most important customer benefit is

  • Customer needs and wants

  • What the customer experience should look like

Embrace this document as a living, iterative team resource. At Amazon, for example, it’s not unusual for a document to go through 20 to 30 revisions. The “day one” mindset – creating something new for the first time, for customers – can help even enterprise-level businesses think like start-ups. 

When to use the working backwards approach

Working backwards encourages product teams to first solve a customer pain point, and then create a product. 

If you and your team aren’t sure whether a new product or feature idea is worth the time investment, working backwards can help push you to test an idea. The framework is also designed to shift your thinking to expected results rather than implementation. 

The framework will help you stay focused, see things customer-centrically, and communicate in plain language before you actually build anything.

Create your own working backwards framework

Making your own working backwards framework is easy. Miro’s whiteboard tool is the perfect canvas to create and share it. Get started by selecting the Working Backwards Template, then take the following steps to make one of your own.

  1. Start with a challenge statement. Based on your understanding of the customer and the document you’ve drafted, what is the challenge (or opportunity) your customer is dealing with?

  2. Identify the ideal future state. Talk with your team about what new business models and structures are needed to make new products and experiences possible. There’s no single right answer, so feel free to use as many sticky notes as necessary to identify possibilities.

  3. Map actions from your ideal future state to the present day. How long will it take to get there? This stage can also help your team have realistic conversations about resourcing, processes, systems, implementation, and support needed to make possible that new product or feature. 

  4. Plan next steps. Once you know the steps needed to get to your ideal future state, you can start building a backlog of tasks. Each task can be prioritized, and ownership assigned to a team member.

Working Backwards Template

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