Published in


North Star Questions and Principles

I think it is easy to lose focus, especially in a startup. There is always too much to do, so much to learn and explore, changing pressures, limited resources…and the list goes on. For me, I gain comfort and clarity from North Star Questions and Principles.

These are a few key questions or ideas that either

  • remind me of my project’s priorities, or
  • help me make sense of whatever current overload I have to deal with.

I like to have 2 sets of questions/principles:

  • a general set (could be applied to most contexts)
  • a specific set (for my project)

Examples of a general set might include:

  • What do I hope to learn today? What am I testing?
  • Am I (we) in learning mode or production mode? If both, which is the higher priority?
  • Don’t try to solve too many problems. At best you’ll solve some partially and may solve none.
  • What are are the existential problems, i.e if don’t solve we are done?
  • What is the user on-ramp, i.e. way to ease a user’s transition/adoption of our idea?
  • Amazon/Jeff Bezos 2 Pizza Rule
  • Live Within Your Means
  • you have limited time/resources, so do what can be done in current context
  • (my obnoxious judgement is that even though this is a key idea in Lean Thinking/Startups, I’ve observed lots of behavior that ignores this principle)

Examples of specific questions/ideas might include:

  • If you were building an API
  • Power of 2: make sure to have two clients to draw out differences and commonalities
  • Economic models
  • we need to manage the cost of ____ (it poses an existential crisis for us)
  • (in SnapPost, this is the cost to produce a listing)

There are others and some of these might need more explanation, but I hope you get the idea.

The daily questions in a Strategy Bridge or Agile Standup are examples of North Star Questions.

These north stars can be useful when building a Strategy Bridge, during (or planning for) an IPM, or simply when you need to take a moment and collect your thoughts. You don’t always need to go through all of them; sometimes a single question can lead to an insight.

As with most ideas, I suggest you iterate. Periodically (every few weeks to a month) cull and prioritize the sets. I think 3–5 questions/ideas in each set are a good place to start, but more, or less, are fine.

Originally published at justideas.io.

justideas.io — startups, software development, and process — by Christian Sepulveda

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Christian Sepulveda

Christian Sepulveda

espresso fanatic, coder (still), VP Engineering Bastille, …yeah, espresso comes first. https://christiansepulveda.com

More from Medium

Our Latest Product Updates

On Building an Open Source FinTech Organisation

Golden Tip- Story telling with basic numbers and figures, plus how to work your way up to the…

Why and how we created the Taxfix glossary of terms and metrics