First, identify the value.

If you want to improve the effectiveness of your organization, start focusing on value, not on deliverables. When you look at job descriptions or examine organizational expectations, you see that they're usually driven by a focus on deliverables, not value. To wit:

  • you need to be at the office from 9-5
  • we have an open door policy, and expect you to keep your door open at all times
  • everyone must attend the monthly all-day, division-wide meeting

Notice that the focus isn't on the value you're providing, it's on the deliverable of your presence during certain periods of time. But if you focus on the value your customer wants, you can remove the manacles of arbitrary expectations.

For example, a woman in a class I recently taught told me that her boss expects her to keep her door open all the time. In this case, the "deliverable" is the open door. Of course, that makes it difficult for her to get her own work done, because she's constantly interrupted by her team. But what's the value she's providing? Her team needs her to answer questions and solve problems as they arise -- and if you've ever managed a team, you know that many of the questions are the same ones, over and over. So why can't she put up a list of FAQs on the server, or post videos answering the most common questions, so that her team can access the answers when they need it, without interrupting her? Of course, she'd be available for more complex issues, but at least this method provides the value while improving her ability to do her own job.

Another example: a company I worked with used to have a quarterly, all-day meeting for its 75 directors and VPs. No one wanted to be there for the full 8 hours -- the "deliverable" -- but it was mandatory because the exec team wanted ideas to cross pollinate throughout the company. Once they focused on the value, however -- the cross-pollination -- they saw that there were other ways to accomplish the same goal. Now they have a much smaller, much shorter meeting, and the company pays for a giant pizza lunch once a quarter where  everyone can exchange ideas about what they're working on and why it's interesting.

It's often difficult to see the distinction between the value and the deliverable, because we're so used to thinking about (and being rewarded for) the latter and not the former. So try focusing on the problem you're trying to solve, rather than the format of the solution. Then consider multiple solutions to the problem. You'll likely find that within that solution set lies a better method for delivering the value to your customer.


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