Bets, Boards, Missions and North Stars by John Cutler "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs April 04 2021 True Metrics, north star metric, ProductTank, Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 500 North star metrics with John Cutler Product Management 2

Bets, Boards, Missions and North Stars by John Cutler


In this ProductTank Barcelona talk, John Cutler, Product Evangelist at Amplitude, showcases some simple hacks he’s used time and time again as an advisor to help nudge organizations forward and get them thinking in new ways. His key points include:

  • The messy middle
  • Framing bets
  • Explore “ownership” boundaries
  • Hack the language
  • North star framework

Watch the video in full to see John’s talk, or read on for an overview of his key points.

The messy middle

One problem John found that keeps cropping up is the messy middle of goals, objectives, and tasks. At any given time, anyone within a product team can explain what they’re going to be working on for the next 1-3 hours, 1-3 days, 1-3 weeks, or 1-3 months. Top-level executives can explain the goals for 1-3 years or a vision of 1-3 decades at a higher level. However, the messy middle, 1-3 quarters can sometimes be like a black hole. It can be difficult to understand what work will look like in that period. As John points out, it’s the product manager’s responsibility to define this area more clearly.

Framing bets

By framing things as bets, which can be big or small, risky or safe, networked/connected or isolated, among other things, it forces the team to think about how much risk they are undertaking and the shape of the work during that 1-3 quarter time period. Work can be looked at in several ranges, and it provides an opportunity for product managers to get very clear about the bet and focus on the actions the team needs to take while acknowledging the risk it entails.

Explore “ownership” boundaries

Ownership provides an understanding of who owns what aspects of a particular group of tasks, from developers to UX members to product managers. They also provide a much deeper understanding of the type of bet happening.

Hack the language

Making subtle changes to the language being used can help product managers to frame things in a more positive light, such as problems and solutions as opportunities.

North star framework

Finally, John explains how to pick a north star metric and the series of metrics that go into it. These metrics are not OKRs but instead remain the same as long as the company strategy stays the same. The key takeaway is that no product is ever truly done unless it’s abandoned. Creating a short-hand strategy and making changes to the language used can simplify things and keep organizations on the right track.

Discover more content on Product Management Metrics and KPIs.

Enjoy more from ProductTank

ProductTanks are informal meetups, created by Mind the Product, to bring local product people together and to enable speakers to share amazing product insights. Today we have ProductTanks in more than 200 cities across the globe and there’s probably one near you.

Learn more about ProductTank – find your local meetup, explore more ProductTank content, see the latest ProductTank news, and discover ways to get involved!