Working Backwards, a book and a method

This book contains insights, stories, and information from Amazon. Written by Colin Bryar and Bill Carr (summary).

Table of contents of the Book

  1. The Leadership Principles
  2. The Bar Raiser Process
  3. Single Threaded Leadership
  4. Narratives and the Six Pager
  5. PR/FAQs — The Working Backwards Process
  6. Controllable Input Metrics
  7. Wrapping Up

Bar raiser process

“Bar raiser” is a process and an actor into that process.

A bar raiser is trained to objectively assess whether interviewees match Amazon’s principles. This person attends interviews and coach other people hiring people.

The process has these basic steps:

  1. Job description
  2. Resume review
  3. Phone screen
  4. Inhouse interview
  5. Written feedback
  6. Debrief hiring meeting
  7. Reference check
  8. Offer through onboarding

This process is in continuous improvement and it’s well known and used by many Amazonians.

New Product Introduction (NPI) process

This process is an end to end process that starts with a business case. This example is good to understand how it’s run. It contains this excellent diagram that helps to understand the main stages:

AWS perspective on transforming NPI

Working Backwards process

I have not found a formal definition of the process in Amazon site, but this is a summary of steps, concepts and visual support about the basis of this process for product development.

The process

Working backwards process
Working backwards process

Glossary of concepts

  • Heading – the product name in a way that sounds appealing to the customer.
  • Sub-heading – describes the target customer in a sentence.
  • Summary – a product summary focusing on the benefits the product will deliver to the customer.
  • Problem – the customer has, and that the solution tries to solve.
  • Solution – how the product solves the problem (using plain English).
  • Quote – an inspirational quote from a company representative explaining the reasons for developing the product.
  • Call to action – direct to the customer to take advantage of the new product.
  • Testimonial – an hypothetical testimonial. Focusing on the benefits of the product is recommended first and foremost.
  • FAQ – an addendum answering common questions or concerns.

Template on Miro

Working Backwards Template on Miro

Weekly Business Review meeting (WBR meeting)

There are no formal tips or ground rules published by Amazon, but I picked these ones:

  • Metrics are formatted in a consistent and familiar way.
  • WBR meetings focus on variances and ignore the expected.
  • Business owners own metrics and are expected to explain variances.
  • Operational and strategic discussions are kept separate.
  • Keep into account DMAIC loops from Six Sigma.

An example about working backwards focused on the AWS Cloud Development Kit.

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