Codifying the Product Discovery Process and Choosing Your North Star Metric: A Guide to Successful Product Development

Aviral Vaid

Aviral Vaid

Mar 16, 20244 min read


Codifying the Product Discovery Process and Choosing Your North Star Metric: A Guide to Successful Product Development


Product development consists of two essential elements: Discovery and Delivery. Discovery involves identifying what to build, while Delivery involves actually building and shipping the product. However, many companies lack a defined Discovery process, often skipping it and jumping straight into building based on assumptions. This article will explore the importance of codifying the Discovery process and choosing a North Star Metric for successful product development.

Codifying the Product Discovery Process:

In many companies, the Discovery process is often overlooked, with stakeholders assuming that someone else has already done the necessary research. This subconscious discouragement of Product Managers (PMs) to engage in Discovery is often due to goals and performance evaluations that prioritize Delivery. To shift the focus towards innovation and experimentation, companies need to codify the Discovery process using four pillars:

  • 1. Training: Properly training PMs on conducting effective Discovery is crucial. By equipping them with the necessary skills and knowledge, companies can ensure a consistent and efficient Discovery process.
  • 2. Templates: Utilizing templates can help maintain consistency throughout the Discovery process. Two additional templates worth incorporating are the Problem Brief and Problem Definition. The Problem Brief outlines the problem's context, symptoms, business requirements, and external landscape. The Problem Definition dives deeper into the problem, addressing its significance, potential impact, inaction consequences, measurable success indicators, and solution criteria.
  • 3. Touchpoints: Establishing touchpoints for reviewing insights and learnings from the Discovery process is vital. This ensures that all Product squads are working on the most important problem areas aligned with the overall strategy.
  • 4. Target: Embedding the Discovery process into performance reviews, progression frameworks, and quarterly goals sets clear expectations for PMs. It emphasizes the importance of Discovery and encourages PMs to prioritize it alongside Delivery.

Choosing Your North Star Metric:

The North Star Metric (NSM) is a vital measurement that aligns the entire organization towards a common goal. There are six categories of NSMs: Revenue, Customer growth, Consumption growth, Engagement growth, Growth efficiency, and User experience. The choice of NSM depends on factors such as business model, product growth, and usage patterns. Let's explore some common NSM choices for different types of companies:

  • 1. Marketplaces and platforms: Consumption growth is often the most relevant NSM for these companies. It measures the intensity of product usage and drives the growth flywheel through content sharing.
  • 2. Paid-growth driven businesses: Growth efficiency, focusing on optimizing spending versus revenue generation, is a common NSM for these companies. It ensures efficient resource allocation and sustainable growth.
  • 3. Freemium team-based B2B products: Engagement and/or customer growth are typically the most suitable NSMs for such products. The focus is on keeping users active and expanding the customer base.
  • 4. UGC subscription-based products: Consumption, measuring the intensity of product usage, is often the preferred NSM. It reflects the value users derive from the product and their willingness to continue subscribing.
  • 5. Ad-driven businesses: Engagement, measuring user activity within the product, is a common NSM. It reflects the effectiveness of ads and the overall user experience.
  • 6. Consumer subscription products: Engagement and/or customer growth are usually the most relevant NSMs for these products. Ensuring active and satisfied subscribers is crucial for long-term success.

It's important to align the NSM with the job your product fulfills for customers or users. Focusing solely on revenue goals too early can lead to suboptimal decisions and uninspiring goals for the team. Companies that have multiple NSMs often do so to incorporate quality metrics or when they have different products with distinct goals.

Taking Action: Three Advice for Successful Product Development:

  • 1. Embrace a mindset shift: Companies must prioritize innovation and experimentation by shifting their focus from Delivery to Discovery. Encourage PMs to dedicate time to properly conduct Discovery and emphasize its importance in performance evaluations.
  • 2. Establish a codified Discovery process: Implement the four pillars mentioned earlier - training, templates, touchpoints, and targets. Train PMs to conduct effective Discovery, provide templates to maintain consistency, establish touchpoints for reviewing insights, and make Discovery an integral part of performance evaluations.
  • 3. Choose the right North Star Metric: Ensure that the chosen NSM aligns with your business model, product growth, and user needs. Consider the job your product fulfills for customers and select the NSM that measures what matters most in fulfilling that job.


Codifying the Product Discovery process and choosing the right North Star Metric are essential for successful product development. By establishing a formal Discovery process and aligning the organization around a common goal, companies can drive innovation, improve decision-making, and prioritize customer satisfaction. Embrace the mindset shift, implement a codified Discovery process, and carefully choose your North Star Metric to unlock the full potential of your product development efforts.


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  2. "Choosing Your North Star Metric", (Glasp)

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