Product Discovery Playbook

Find clarity and purpose with

North Star

North Star workshop

What is a

North Star workshop

?

A North Star is a metric that captures the core value that your product delivers to customers and end-users. The North Star Framework can help businesses become more product-led, and optimise their structures and processes to ensure the success of their products.

  • The North Star Framework is a model for managing products by identifying a single crucial metric (the North Star metric)
  • In addition to the metric, the North Star Framework includes 3-5 input metrics that increases alignment and accelerates informed but decentralized decision-making
  • The North Star Framework helps teams prioritise, communicate and focus on impact
  • The North Star Framework can help businesses become more product-led, where they optimise their structures and processes to ensure the success of their products

North Star

process

The heart of the North Star Framework is the North Star Metric, a single critical rate, count, or ratio that represents your product strategy. This metric is a leading indicator that defines the relationship between the customer problems that the product team is trying to solve and sustainable, long-term business results.

North Star workshop
Aligns with Product Vision
North Star reduces misunderstandings in the product team and lets a common vision of the future guide the team
North Star workshop
Measures customer value
North Star measures the moment that a customer finds value from your product
North Star workshop
Indicates revenue
North Star is a leading (not lagging) indicator of future business outcomes that your company cares about

Design Sprint achievements

Highlighting some of our most significant outcomes from Design Sprints to date.

400 kEUR ARR

Deal for at least 8 years without writing a single line of code.
Product
Idella
Problem to solve
The Dutch government invited Idella to join a tender for an Unemployment Benefits Portal.
Process
8 people and 4 days of brainstorming, sketching, prototyping and then presenting to the government.

+20 pNPS

pNPS increase from -21 to +20
Product
Recruit
Problem to solve
The team saw that their pNPS kept falling and new they needed to break the trend.
Process
7 people and 4 days of brainstorming, sketching, prototyping and finally usability testing with recruiters.

+3 customers

gained new customers the week after the sprint
Product
Visma Real Estate
Problem to solve
The teams needed to merge two products into one, helping settlement workers prioritise tasks and save time.
Process
7 people and 4 days of brainstorming, sketching, prototyping and finally usability testing with settlement workers.

What makes a good North Star?

It expresses value
We can see why it matters to customers
It’s actionable
We can take action to influence it
It’s not a vanity metric
We can be confident that the change is meaningful and valuable
It’s a leading indicator of success
It predicts future results, rather than reflecting past results
It’s understandable
Language that non-technical partners can understand
It represents vision and strategy
Our company’s product and business strategy are reflected in it
It’s measurable
We can instrument our product to track it

Find your North Star

The North Star Metric is a well-established framework that assists in identifying the metric that most accurately reflects the core value that your product provides to customers.

Emphasising and enhancing your company's overall efforts to improve your North Star Metric is essential for promoting long-term and stable growth within your company. 

This framework helps product teams address crucial inquiries, such as: How can we improve the value delivered to customers while increasing revenue? How does our daily work correlate with real impact? How can we be confident that we are prioritising the right initiatives? How can our teams overcome division and attain harmony?

Infinity symbol icon
Understand, Define, Validate
Clock icon
1h preparation & alignment, 2 half day workshops, validation session with users
Users icon
Company Leadership, Product Management, Customer Success, Senior Sales rep., Senior Marketing rep., Senior Support rep., UX Lead, Product team
Before

1. Understand. Before you dive in, get to know the North Star Framework, Metric and Workshop.

2. Prepare and align. A North Star workshop is best to run with participants from several different departments in your company. Which individuals do you think have opinions that would contribute to an interesting discussion? Make sure that your prospective participants know they are in for a high-level discussion about vision, strategy and value. At Visma, we use stakeholder interviews to kick off the workshop. Interviewees can for example be company founders, customers or customer success professionals. Think ahead of time about who you would like the participants to interview in order to drive the conversation!

3. Settle on participants and get commitment. Participating in a North Star workshop requires concentration and a mental effort. If several participants are missing from one or both days, discussion will be impaired and the value of the workshop reduced. Of course, urgent phone calls can be answered, but we strongly recommend participants to prioritise the workshop over daily matters.

During

4. Follow the day-by-day schedule of the North Star workshop, for instance using our Mural template which contains all the recommended exercises in chronological order. 

a. Workshop 1: Define and align on the foundations. During the first day, the participants individually write suggestions for the three foundations that underpin a good North Star Metric: core value, critical events and ways to monetise, before voting on ideas and settling on results together. The group will also learn about what sets the North Star framework apart and why a North Star metric can create so much value - and be so hard to find. The expected outcome of the first workshop is alignment on the core value statement, critical events, and ways to monetise.

b. Workshop 2: Align on the North Star metric and explore input metrics. During the second day, the participants move on to find a North Star Metric candidate and input metrics, with the help of the foundations that they settled on during the previous day. Participants individually write suggestions for North Star metric candidates, before voting and settling on one of them. Last but not least, the participants work in groups to ideate input metrics, which are used to connect work at all levels of the product organisation to the North Star metric. 

At the end of the workshop, teams are expected to have achieved alignment regarding how their product grows. They will have clarity around the North Star metric connecting their business objectives, customer goals, and day-to-day work. Along with that, teams will have a set of input metrics that they should focus on, thus allowing them to make better product decisions and prioritise initiatives.

After

5. Validate with users. Once you have decided on North Star and input metrics, it is time to verify with users that you actually are on the right track. Interview your users to find out what they think about your metrics and foundations!

6. Communicate to teams. The North Star framework is meant to be useful for all team members. Talk about your North Star metric. Refer to your North Star metric in sprint plannings. Run workshops with members of different departments and get their input on it! Do they think it is relevant to their work? Which of the input metrics do they feel that they can use to contribute towards the North Star metric? 

7. Follow up input metrics. Good input metrics reduce the effort required by team members to plan their work. Once the connection between selected tasks, input metric and North Star metric is no longer clear and logical, the input metric must be improved upon. Regularly organise workshops where team members can discuss, improve and change the input metric they use for inspiration! Continuously collect quantitative data related to your input metrics, and use this as material for the workshops.

Tips

How do I know whether my team is ready for a North Star workshop?

  • Your team should have an understanding about metrics [link to our offering on metrics] and their use, as metrics are integral to the North Star framework.
  • You should also have a product vision [link to our offering on vision], and preferably the team should be aligned around it.

How can I make sure that we get the most out of our workshop?

  • Ensure that your participants are committed.
  • Find participants and interviewees that have both knowledge and opinions. 
  • Understand that the workshop is not the final step, but the first step of unlocking the potential of the North Star framework.

What are some common pitfalls that can cause confusion or disagreement?

  • Lack of alignment around the product vision.
  • Not approaching the discussion from the perspectives of user and value.
Learn more
Before

1. Understand. Before you dive in, get to know the North Star Framework, Metric and Workshop.

2. Prepare and align. A North Star workshop is best to run with participants from several different departments in your company. Which individuals do you think have opinions that would contribute to an interesting discussion? Make sure that your prospective participants know they are in for a high-level discussion about vision, strategy and value. At Visma, we use stakeholder interviews to kick off the workshop. Interviewees can for example be company founders, customers or customer success professionals. Think ahead of time about who you would like the participants to interview in order to drive the conversation!

3. Settle on participants and get commitment. Participating in a North Star workshop requires concentration and a mental effort. If several participants are missing from one or both days, discussion will be impaired and the value of the workshop reduced. Of course, urgent phone calls can be answered, but we strongly recommend participants to prioritise the workshop over daily matters.

During

4. Follow the day-by-day schedule of the North Star workshop, for instance using our Mural template which contains all the recommended exercises in chronological order. 

a. Workshop 1: Define and align on the foundations. During the first day, the participants individually write suggestions for the three foundations that underpin a good North Star Metric: core value, critical events and ways to monetise, before voting on ideas and settling on results together. The group will also learn about what sets the North Star framework apart and why a North Star metric can create so much value - and be so hard to find. The expected outcome of the first workshop is alignment on the core value statement, critical events, and ways to monetise.

b. Workshop 2: Align on the North Star metric and explore input metrics. During the second day, the participants move on to find a North Star Metric candidate and input metrics, with the help of the foundations that they settled on during the previous day. Participants individually write suggestions for North Star metric candidates, before voting and settling on one of them. Last but not least, the participants work in groups to ideate input metrics, which are used to connect work at all levels of the product organisation to the North Star metric. 

At the end of the workshop, teams are expected to have achieved alignment regarding how their product grows. They will have clarity around the North Star metric connecting their business objectives, customer goals, and day-to-day work. Along with that, teams will have a set of input metrics that they should focus on, thus allowing them to make better product decisions and prioritise initiatives.

After

5. Validate with users. Once you have decided on North Star and input metrics, it is time to verify with users that you actually are on the right track. Interview your users to find out what they think about your metrics and foundations!

6. Communicate to teams. The North Star framework is meant to be useful for all team members. Talk about your North Star metric. Refer to your North Star metric in sprint plannings. Run workshops with members of different departments and get their input on it! Do they think it is relevant to their work? Which of the input metrics do they feel that they can use to contribute towards the North Star metric? 

7. Follow up input metrics. Good input metrics reduce the effort required by team members to plan their work. Once the connection between selected tasks, input metric and North Star metric is no longer clear and logical, the input metric must be improved upon. Regularly organise workshops where team members can discuss, improve and change the input metric they use for inspiration! Continuously collect quantitative data related to your input metrics, and use this as material for the workshops.

Tips

How do I know whether my team is ready for a North Star workshop?

  • Your team should have an understanding about metrics [link to our offering on metrics] and their use, as metrics are integral to the North Star framework.
  • You should also have a product vision [link to our offering on vision], and preferably the team should be aligned around it.

How can I make sure that we get the most out of our workshop?

  • Ensure that your participants are committed.
  • Find participants and interviewees that have both knowledge and opinions. 
  • Understand that the workshop is not the final step, but the first step of unlocking the potential of the North Star framework.

What are some common pitfalls that can cause confusion or disagreement?

  • Lack of alignment around the product vision.
  • Not approaching the discussion from the perspectives of user and value.
Learn more
Before

1. Understand. Before you dive in, get to know the North Star Framework, Metric and Workshop.

2. Prepare and align. A North Star workshop is best to run with participants from several different departments in your company. Which individuals do you think have opinions that would contribute to an interesting discussion? Make sure that your prospective participants know they are in for a high-level discussion about vision, strategy and value. At Visma, we use stakeholder interviews to kick off the workshop. Interviewees can for example be company founders, customers or customer success professionals. Think ahead of time about who you would like the participants to interview in order to drive the conversation!

3. Settle on participants and get commitment. Participating in a North Star workshop requires concentration and a mental effort. If several participants are missing from one or both days, discussion will be impaired and the value of the workshop reduced. Of course, urgent phone calls can be answered, but we strongly recommend participants to prioritise the workshop over daily matters.

During

4. Follow the day-by-day schedule of the North Star workshop, for instance using our Mural template which contains all the recommended exercises in chronological order. 

a. Workshop 1: Define and align on the foundations. During the first day, the participants individually write suggestions for the three foundations that underpin a good North Star Metric: core value, critical events and ways to monetise, before voting on ideas and settling on results together. The group will also learn about what sets the North Star framework apart and why a North Star metric can create so much value - and be so hard to find. The expected outcome of the first workshop is alignment on the core value statement, critical events, and ways to monetise.

b. Workshop 2: Align on the North Star metric and explore input metrics. During the second day, the participants move on to find a North Star Metric candidate and input metrics, with the help of the foundations that they settled on during the previous day. Participants individually write suggestions for North Star metric candidates, before voting and settling on one of them. Last but not least, the participants work in groups to ideate input metrics, which are used to connect work at all levels of the product organisation to the North Star metric. 

At the end of the workshop, teams are expected to have achieved alignment regarding how their product grows. They will have clarity around the North Star metric connecting their business objectives, customer goals, and day-to-day work. Along with that, teams will have a set of input metrics that they should focus on, thus allowing them to make better product decisions and prioritise initiatives.

After

5. Validate with users. Once you have decided on North Star and input metrics, it is time to verify with users that you actually are on the right track. Interview your users to find out what they think about your metrics and foundations!

6. Communicate to teams. The North Star framework is meant to be useful for all team members. Talk about your North Star metric. Refer to your North Star metric in sprint plannings. Run workshops with members of different departments and get their input on it! Do they think it is relevant to their work? Which of the input metrics do they feel that they can use to contribute towards the North Star metric? 

7. Follow up input metrics. Good input metrics reduce the effort required by team members to plan their work. Once the connection between selected tasks, input metric and North Star metric is no longer clear and logical, the input metric must be improved upon. Regularly organise workshops where team members can discuss, improve and change the input metric they use for inspiration! Continuously collect quantitative data related to your input metrics, and use this as material for the workshops.

Tips

How do I know whether my team is ready for a North Star workshop?

  • Your team should have an understanding about metrics [link to our offering on metrics] and their use, as metrics are integral to the North Star framework.
  • You should also have a product vision [link to our offering on vision], and preferably the team should be aligned around it.

How can I make sure that we get the most out of our workshop?

  • Ensure that your participants are committed.
  • Find participants and interviewees that have both knowledge and opinions. 
  • Understand that the workshop is not the final step, but the first step of unlocking the potential of the North Star framework.

What are some common pitfalls that can cause confusion or disagreement?

  • Lack of alignment around the product vision.
  • Not approaching the discussion from the perspectives of user and value.
Learn more
Before

1. Understand. Before you dive in, get to know the North Star Framework, Metric and Workshop.

2. Prepare and align. A North Star workshop is best to run with participants from several different departments in your company. Which individuals do you think have opinions that would contribute to an interesting discussion? Make sure that your prospective participants know they are in for a high-level discussion about vision, strategy and value. At Visma, we use stakeholder interviews to kick off the workshop. Interviewees can for example be company founders, customers or customer success professionals. Think ahead of time about who you would like the participants to interview in order to drive the conversation!

3. Settle on participants and get commitment. Participating in a North Star workshop requires concentration and a mental effort. If several participants are missing from one or both days, discussion will be impaired and the value of the workshop reduced. Of course, urgent phone calls can be answered, but we strongly recommend participants to prioritise the workshop over daily matters.

During

4. Follow the day-by-day schedule of the North Star workshop, for instance using our Mural template which contains all the recommended exercises in chronological order. 

a. Workshop 1: Define and align on the foundations. During the first day, the participants individually write suggestions for the three foundations that underpin a good North Star Metric: core value, critical events and ways to monetise, before voting on ideas and settling on results together. The group will also learn about what sets the North Star framework apart and why a North Star metric can create so much value - and be so hard to find. The expected outcome of the first workshop is alignment on the core value statement, critical events, and ways to monetise.

b. Workshop 2: Align on the North Star metric and explore input metrics. During the second day, the participants move on to find a North Star Metric candidate and input metrics, with the help of the foundations that they settled on during the previous day. Participants individually write suggestions for North Star metric candidates, before voting and settling on one of them. Last but not least, the participants work in groups to ideate input metrics, which are used to connect work at all levels of the product organisation to the North Star metric. 

At the end of the workshop, teams are expected to have achieved alignment regarding how their product grows. They will have clarity around the North Star metric connecting their business objectives, customer goals, and day-to-day work. Along with that, teams will have a set of input metrics that they should focus on, thus allowing them to make better product decisions and prioritise initiatives.

After

5. Validate with users. Once you have decided on North Star and input metrics, it is time to verify with users that you actually are on the right track. Interview your users to find out what they think about your metrics and foundations!

6. Communicate to teams. The North Star framework is meant to be useful for all team members. Talk about your North Star metric. Refer to your North Star metric in sprint plannings. Run workshops with members of different departments and get their input on it! Do they think it is relevant to their work? Which of the input metrics do they feel that they can use to contribute towards the North Star metric? 

7. Follow up input metrics. Good input metrics reduce the effort required by team members to plan their work. Once the connection between selected tasks, input metric and North Star metric is no longer clear and logical, the input metric must be improved upon. Regularly organise workshops where team members can discuss, improve and change the input metric they use for inspiration! Continuously collect quantitative data related to your input metrics, and use this as material for the workshops.

Tips

How do I know whether my team is ready for a North Star workshop?

  • Your team should have an understanding about metrics [link to our offering on metrics] and their use, as metrics are integral to the North Star framework.
  • You should also have a product vision [link to our offering on vision], and preferably the team should be aligned around it.

How can I make sure that we get the most out of our workshop?

  • Ensure that your participants are committed.
  • Find participants and interviewees that have both knowledge and opinions. 
  • Understand that the workshop is not the final step, but the first step of unlocking the potential of the North Star framework.

What are some common pitfalls that can cause confusion or disagreement?

  • Lack of alignment around the product vision.
  • Not approaching the discussion from the perspectives of user and value.
Learn more
Before

1. Understand. Before you dive in, get to know the North Star Framework, Metric and Workshop.

2. Prepare and align. A North Star workshop is best to run with participants from several different departments in your company. Which individuals do you think have opinions that would contribute to an interesting discussion? Make sure that your prospective participants know they are in for a high-level discussion about vision, strategy and value. At Visma, we use stakeholder interviews to kick off the workshop. Interviewees can for example be company founders, customers or customer success professionals. Think ahead of time about who you would like the participants to interview in order to drive the conversation!

3. Settle on participants and get commitment. Participating in a North Star workshop requires concentration and a mental effort. If several participants are missing from one or both days, discussion will be impaired and the value of the workshop reduced. Of course, urgent phone calls can be answered, but we strongly recommend participants to prioritise the workshop over daily matters.

During

4. Follow the day-by-day schedule of the North Star workshop, for instance using our Mural template which contains all the recommended exercises in chronological order. 

a. Workshop 1: Define and align on the foundations. During the first day, the participants individually write suggestions for the three foundations that underpin a good North Star Metric: core value, critical events and ways to monetise, before voting on ideas and settling on results together. The group will also learn about what sets the North Star framework apart and why a North Star metric can create so much value - and be so hard to find. The expected outcome of the first workshop is alignment on the core value statement, critical events, and ways to monetise.

b. Workshop 2: Align on the North Star metric and explore input metrics. During the second day, the participants move on to find a North Star Metric candidate and input metrics, with the help of the foundations that they settled on during the previous day. Participants individually write suggestions for North Star metric candidates, before voting and settling on one of them. Last but not least, the participants work in groups to ideate input metrics, which are used to connect work at all levels of the product organisation to the North Star metric. 

At the end of the workshop, teams are expected to have achieved alignment regarding how their product grows. They will have clarity around the North Star metric connecting their business objectives, customer goals, and day-to-day work. Along with that, teams will have a set of input metrics that they should focus on, thus allowing them to make better product decisions and prioritise initiatives.

After

5. Validate with users. Once you have decided on North Star and input metrics, it is time to verify with users that you actually are on the right track. Interview your users to find out what they think about your metrics and foundations!

6. Communicate to teams. The North Star framework is meant to be useful for all team members. Talk about your North Star metric. Refer to your North Star metric in sprint plannings. Run workshops with members of different departments and get their input on it! Do they think it is relevant to their work? Which of the input metrics do they feel that they can use to contribute towards the North Star metric? 

7. Follow up input metrics. Good input metrics reduce the effort required by team members to plan their work. Once the connection between selected tasks, input metric and North Star metric is no longer clear and logical, the input metric must be improved upon. Regularly organise workshops where team members can discuss, improve and change the input metric they use for inspiration! Continuously collect quantitative data related to your input metrics, and use this as material for the workshops.

Tips

How do I know whether my team is ready for a North Star workshop?

  • Your team should have an understanding about metrics [link to our offering on metrics] and their use, as metrics are integral to the North Star framework.
  • You should also have a product vision [link to our offering on vision], and preferably the team should be aligned around it.

How can I make sure that we get the most out of our workshop?

  • Ensure that your participants are committed.
  • Find participants and interviewees that have both knowledge and opinions. 
  • Understand that the workshop is not the final step, but the first step of unlocking the potential of the North Star framework.

What are some common pitfalls that can cause confusion or disagreement?

  • Lack of alignment around the product vision.
  • Not approaching the discussion from the perspectives of user and value.
Learn more
Before

1. Understand. Before you dive in, get to know the North Star Framework, Metric and Workshop.

2. Prepare and align. A North Star workshop is best to run with participants from several different departments in your company. Which individuals do you think have opinions that would contribute to an interesting discussion? Make sure that your prospective participants know they are in for a high-level discussion about vision, strategy and value. At Visma, we use stakeholder interviews to kick off the workshop. Interviewees can for example be company founders, customers or customer success professionals. Think ahead of time about who you would like the participants to interview in order to drive the conversation!

3. Settle on participants and get commitment. Participating in a North Star workshop requires concentration and a mental effort. If several participants are missing from one or both days, discussion will be impaired and the value of the workshop reduced. Of course, urgent phone calls can be answered, but we strongly recommend participants to prioritise the workshop over daily matters.

During

4. Follow the day-by-day schedule of the North Star workshop, for instance using our Mural template which contains all the recommended exercises in chronological order. 

a. Workshop 1: Define and align on the foundations. During the first day, the participants individually write suggestions for the three foundations that underpin a good North Star Metric: core value, critical events and ways to monetise, before voting on ideas and settling on results together. The group will also learn about what sets the North Star framework apart and why a North Star metric can create so much value - and be so hard to find. The expected outcome of the first workshop is alignment on the core value statement, critical events, and ways to monetise.

b. Workshop 2: Align on the North Star metric and explore input metrics. During the second day, the participants move on to find a North Star Metric candidate and input metrics, with the help of the foundations that they settled on during the previous day. Participants individually write suggestions for North Star metric candidates, before voting and settling on one of them. Last but not least, the participants work in groups to ideate input metrics, which are used to connect work at all levels of the product organisation to the North Star metric. 

At the end of the workshop, teams are expected to have achieved alignment regarding how their product grows. They will have clarity around the North Star metric connecting their business objectives, customer goals, and day-to-day work. Along with that, teams will have a set of input metrics that they should focus on, thus allowing them to make better product decisions and prioritise initiatives.

After

5. Validate with users. Once you have decided on North Star and input metrics, it is time to verify with users that you actually are on the right track. Interview your users to find out what they think about your metrics and foundations!

6. Communicate to teams. The North Star framework is meant to be useful for all team members. Talk about your North Star metric. Refer to your North Star metric in sprint plannings. Run workshops with members of different departments and get their input on it! Do they think it is relevant to their work? Which of the input metrics do they feel that they can use to contribute towards the North Star metric? 

7. Follow up input metrics. Good input metrics reduce the effort required by team members to plan their work. Once the connection between selected tasks, input metric and North Star metric is no longer clear and logical, the input metric must be improved upon. Regularly organise workshops where team members can discuss, improve and change the input metric they use for inspiration! Continuously collect quantitative data related to your input metrics, and use this as material for the workshops.

Tips

How do I know whether my team is ready for a North Star workshop?

  • Your team should have an understanding about metrics [link to our offering on metrics] and their use, as metrics are integral to the North Star framework.
  • You should also have a product vision [link to our offering on vision], and preferably the team should be aligned around it.

How can I make sure that we get the most out of our workshop?

  • Ensure that your participants are committed.
  • Find participants and interviewees that have both knowledge and opinions. 
  • Understand that the workshop is not the final step, but the first step of unlocking the potential of the North Star framework.

What are some common pitfalls that can cause confusion or disagreement?

  • Lack of alignment around the product vision.
  • Not approaching the discussion from the perspectives of user and value.
Learn more

Templates

For every workshop facilitated with Visma companies, the templates used by the Product Discovery team are continuously improved upon. Whether you want to facilitate your own North Star workshop, or just learn more about what a workshop facilitated by us could look like, these are the templates we recommend you to take a look at.

North Star board

Use this template on Mural to facilitate a North Star workshop.

Tool recommendations

Ultimately, the choice of design tool depends on the specific needs of the designer and the project at hand. Each tool has its strengths and weaknesses, and designers must consider factors such as cost, ease of use, and collaboration features when selecting the best tool for their needs.

Mural

Mural

Mural offers both a shared workspace and training, a practical way to collaborate that anyone can learn and apply.
Google Docs

Google Docs

Create, and collaborate on online documents. Edit together with secure sharing in real-time and from any device.
Google Meet

Google Meet

Real-time meetings using your browser, share your video, desktop, and presentations with teammates and customers.
North Star workshop

Are you ready to find your North Star?

Success stories

Knowledge is meant to be shared. Explore the cards below to learn more about how companies around Visma have leveraged their teams to work better with turning data into insights.

Design Sprint

How to win a €3.2 million deal without writing a single line of code

Design Sprint

From Mockup to pNPS UP in Visma Recruit

Design Sprint

How to drive innovation and transform a team in 4 days

Want to learn more?

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