Set Your North Star? What’s Next!
Communicate. Execute. Measure. Incentivize.
In my previous newsletter, I have written about how to set your North Star. While setting your North Star is extremely important, what is more important is what you do next with it. Intentional execution is the key to your success.
Here are some key learnings that I have gained over the years on how to drive alignment towards your most valuable metric.
Articulate the why’s behind your metric
Once you have set up your North Star metric, it is extremely crucial to identify the “why” behind it. To do that, having the answers to the following questions is always helpful.
Why is that particular metric important?
What would happen if you achieved it?
For example: for an adult learning edtech company the North Star metric could be X million graduates (time bound) to show that the learning methodology is effective or Y number of jobs (time bound) to show that the courses offer job ready skills. For a lending company, the % default could be a metric to show that they are able to give out loans to the correct set of audiences and recover them effectively.
Communicate and reiterate
Communicate about the North Star metric to the entire company. Since the success of your metric depends heavily on how the team aligns with it, it is important to communicate the what’s and why’s of your North Star strategy with the team. You should also reiterate the metrics to the team from time to time so the team stays on track and there is continued alignment.
Define how the North Star relates to teams
As important it is to define how different teams align with the North Star, it is also important to define how the North Star aligns with the different teams! Every North Star needs to be broken down to sub metrics for each team.
For example: in an Edtech company with the number of graduates as the North Star metric, the content development team may not directly impact the metric but by creating more courses they can help get more people into the funnel. Similarly, the marketing team decides to generate a certain volume of leads, the delivery team decides initiatives to help in the learning journey and the product team works on increasing engagement. Each team has to come together to achieve their sub metrics to collectively achieve the North Star metric. Supporting businesses like human resource and finance can immensely help by hiring the right talent and managing the required cash flows and margins.
Measure, measure and measure
As you get into execution mode, it’s critical to measure the progress towards the North Star metric periodically. Make sure you talk about it in monthly and quarterly updates. The dashboards should be made available for everyone to be able to see the progress anytime.
Explain to the company at town hall events what’s working & what’s not working. Highlight the decisions that were taken in support of achieving the metric. It is also important to highlight those decisions which were geared towards stopping certain projects or activities to build more focus to achieve the North Star.
Incentivize and align through a bonus plan
Finally, one way that I have seen work very well in small to midsize companies is to create a very transparent bonus plan that gets triggered when the company hits the metric. The bonus plan can become a very positive forcing function for leaders and teams to always keep the North Start at the focal point of everything they do.
All said and done, execution is the key to drive success for your North Star metrics. Once the metrics are deconstructed for different teams, plan for execution. Timely and high quality execution is key. Just as fast and low quality work doesn’t help, similarly slow but high quality work is of no use.
What has worked for you to achieve your North Star?