Serverless Craic Ep24 Clarity of Purpose with the North Star Framework

Serverless Craic from The Serverless Edge

Jul 7 2022 • 13 mins

Clarity of Purpose with the North Star Framework

For many teams, trying to figure out why you're building what you're building is a good question to ask. I have found out in my career that most teams don't really understand why they're building what they are building.

It's interesting to look at the models for creating great software, like The British Design Council and the Double Diamond. On the left is discovery, and on the right is delivery. So discovery and delivery. We always talk about delivery. We obsess over it. We very rarely do product well, or discovery well. And a good product is really about discovery.

One person who has nailed it is Melissa Perry. In her book, 'Escaping the Build Trap', she talks about people blindly building. And building backlogs It's comfortable for teams because they are in their groove. And they knock out another widget, ticket or feature without thinking about the impact and who it's actually for. Get the JIRA tickets closed, get the storage complete, get the sprint done, and move on!

The move from project to product was supposed to fix this. But I don't think it has. Because product managers have people building things like 'billyo'. But often they are building the wrong thing. A great saying is: "Build the thing right, build the right thing, build it quickly". We're good at building quickly and good at building the thing right. But we're not very good at building the right thing. And that's what breaks companies. Because building the wrong things can be expensive.

If you don't understand the impact you're trying to have, how can you do the right thing? Or build the right thing? How can you know what success looks like? What conversations are you having on potential approaches and ways to achieve that success? It all ties back to data, metrics and understanding the problem you're trying to solve. If you're not doing that, it dilutes the good intent of good teams and engineers. How can they build the right thing if they don't understand what success is? Or the problem they're trying to solve? And what are our options? It's a challenging thing to do. The frameworks on mindset and helping you think in the right way, lead you to what you need to solve.

One thing we find helpful, which is not well understood, is the North Star Framework from Amplitude. We discovered it a few years ago. And it collectively blew our minds. We have used it ever since. It's a simple framework that people can get in an hour long session. Your teams can share and collaborate. And online collaboration tools have helped make this a lot easier.  Your users and their needs sets the context leading into the Northstar. It gets everybody back on the same page if they have forgotten about a user. Or if they have forgotten that they do something for a set of people and their needs.

One big thing we've noticed with this and Wardley Mapping is that it invites challenges. You are not challenging the person or the team, you're starting to have a conversation about North Star metrics, KPIs and the work aligned to that. You're not challenging a person. It provides a safe space for the right challenge to happen.

I love the traceability of the Northstar. You can go from business metrics back to your work. Or you can go from your work to the business metrics. I think that's the real power behind it.

Melissa Perry: 'Escaping the Build Trap'

Marty Cagan: 'INSPIRED: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love'

Amplitude: The North Star Framework

Jon Cutler

Simon Sinek: 'Start with Why' & 'Golden Circle'.

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