Working Backwards

Amazon, with its maniacally-driven customer focus, has a working principle of working backwards. Start with the customer, the product vision, the desired end-result, and work backwards from that point.

This principle is the same within lean manufacturing where you start at the end of the line–for example the final product as it is being shipped out the doors, then work through each team and process step through the chain of dependencies. In fact it is one of the principles of lean manufacturing and used as a tool to drive efficiency called Map the Value Stream: “use the customer’s value as a reference point and identify all the activities that contribute to these values.”

As a product manager, I am constantly faced with this concept. In fact, as a product manager, you hold the overall vision, but this principle applies within all steps along the way. Whatever your contribution, ask the questions:

  1. What can I do to add the most value?
  1. What should I not be doing (waste)?
  2. Who depends on me?
  3. Who do I depend on?
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