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

Get started with this template right now. It’s free

Related Templates
ansoff-matrix-thumb-webansoff-matrix-thumb-web
Preview

Ansoff Matrix

Keep growing. Keep scaling. Keep finding those new opportunities in new markets—and creative new ways to reach customers there. Sound like your approach? Then this template might be a great fit. An Ansoff Matrix (aka, a product or market expansion grid) is broken into four potential growth strategies: Market Penetration, Market Development, Product Development, and Diversification. When you go through each section with your team, you’ll get a clear view of your options going forward and the potential risks and rewards of each.

Ansoff Matrix
Whats on your Radar ThumbnailWhats on your Radar Thumbnail
Preview

What's on Your Radar

Do you or your team feel overburdened by tasks? Having trouble focusing on particular problems? What’s on Your Radar is a thought exercise in which you plot ideas according to their importance or relevance. Designers and teams use what’s on your radar to ensure that their ideas are within the scope of a given project. They also rely on the method to assess whether a given solution is likely to solve the problem at hand. But even if you’re not a designer, the method can help assign priorities and ground your ideas in reality.

What's on Your Radar
Gap Analysis ThumbnailGap Analysis Thumbnail
Preview

Gap Analysis

Consider your team’s or organization’s ideal state. Now compare it to your current real-world situation. Want to identify the gaps or obstacles that stand between your present and future? Then you’re ready to run a gap analysis. This easy-to-customize template will let your team align on what obstacles are preventing you from hitting your goals sooner, collaborate on a plan to achieve those goals, and push your organization toward growth and development. You can focus on specific gap analyses — including for skills, candidates, software, processes, vendors, data, and more.

Gap Analysis
feature-planning-thumb-webfeature-planning-thumb-web
Preview

Feature Planning

Features are what make a product or service fun, but adding new ones is no walk in the park. It takes many steps—ideating, designing, refining, building, testing, launching, and promoting—and just as many stakeholders. Feature Planning lets you put a smooth, sturdy process in place, so you can add a feature successfully, and spend less time and resources doing it. That makes our Feature Planning Template a smart starting point for anyone looking to add new product features, especially members of product, engineering, marketing, and sales teams.

Feature Planning
Timeline Workflow ThumbnailTimeline Workflow Thumbnail
Preview

Timeline Workflow

A timeline is a visual tool that chronologically plots out projects step by step. It’s an ideal tool for your team to tell stories (such as an overview of events in your organization) and visualize your projects or processes. The Timeline Workflow template is perfect for any project that relies on visual content. You may find it beneficial to use with your team and also to share with other stakeholders or clients to keep them in the loop on your progress.

Timeline Workflow
Conversion Funnel Backlog-thumb-webConversion Funnel Backlog-thumb-web
Preview

Conversion Funnel Backlog

If you’re working on a product that has clear conversions, then it can help to structure your backlog around the conversion funnel to make sure you’re reaching your audience. Creating a conversion funnel backlog brings together information around potential pain-points in your funnel and opportunities for growth. Once you’ve identified that information, it becomes easier to prioritize. You and your team can use the conversion funnel backlog to focus on conversion, retention, and referral, or to tweak your workflow in more mature products.

Conversion Funnel Backlog