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North Star Metric - Two Stories

September 25, 2020

They go by many names (North Star Metric, product principles) but I like the idea of having a singular goal that creates alignment and helps us answer questions for the product. Should feature X or Y come next? Persevere or pivot? Which metrics matter or don’t? Two stories…

The British rowing team — which hadn’t won a gold medal since 1912 — got committed in preparation for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. That commitment was embodied in a single question they asked themselves before making any decision: Will it make the boat go faster? This one question allowed them to measure every situation, decision, and obstacle — and to not get derailed from their objective. With every decision or opportunity, every member of the team asked themselves: Will it make the boat go faster? If the answer was no, they didn’t do it. Eat the donut? (Will it make the boat go faster?) Stay up late and go to the party? (Will it make the boat go faster?) Because they were committed, they got the result they wanted. They won gold that year.

Herb Kelleher was the co-founder and the longest-running CEO of Southwest Airlines. Herb once told someone that he can teach the secret of running his business in only thirty seconds. He said, ”We are THE low-fare airline. Once you understand this fact, you can make any decision about the company’s future as well as I can”. He then gave an example. “So Tracy from marketing comes to your office and tells you that, based on a survey, passengers might enjoy a salad. We serve only peanuts and it would be nice to serve chicken Caesar salad. How would you respond?” The person didn’t know what to say. So Kelleher replied to his question himself. “You ask Tracy ‘Will adding a chicken salad to the menu make us THE low-fare airline? Because if it doesn’t then we are not serving any damn chicken salad.”

This is your name goes.
Or whatever, you make the rules.