What Does Delivering Value Mean

Episode 103

March 27, 2013


mindset product value

The Agile Weekly Crew discuss the definition and types of value.

Roy vandeWater: Hi and welcome to another episode of the Agile Weekly Podcast . I’m Roy vandeWater.

Jade Meskill: Jade Meskill.

Clayton Lengel‑Zigich: Clayton Lengel‑Zigich.

Everybody’s Talking About Value

Derek Neighbors: I’m Derek Neighbors and today we’re talking about value.

Roy: Clayton you brought this up earlier. What kind of context were you talking about value?

Clayton: I brought it up because Derek and I were talking about it. Derek and Jade and I were talking about it.

Jade: Derek, Jade, and half of twitter, and Clayton were talking about it.

Clayton: I think the core of it is everyone talks about value. It’s like this litmus test. If you go to a Scrum user group and somebody’s talking about something, the way that you can make it seem you know what you are talking about is if you say something like “I just focus on delivering value to the customer.”

Everyone is like “I heard that once in an article, and I read that in a book so this guy knows what he’s talking about.” Then you scratch a little bit and then if you peel back the onion what do you get?

Jade: More value.

Derek: It’s because the quality conversation ran out of gas.


Derek: It used to be quality, and then, once people realized that, “Crap, that ship don’t sail anymore,” they…


Derek: …to value.


Derek: Quality’s hard.

What Does Deliver Value Actually Mean

Derek: I’m actually thinking a lot of this Lean Startup. All the Lean Startup stuff came out, and it was really pushed in from our product perspective value. I think when you’re talking technical excellence, the word that everybody uses is quality.

When you start to talk about product ownership, product management, or the proxy side of things, it’s all about value.

My question was simple, I thought. Apparently questions piss people off. And that is, what is value? I don’t know. I hear it said so much that it’s like that void word that has no real meaning.

Clayton: What if you go with the easy answer, which I think may be…the easy thing to measure is money. Value is when I make more money. if I had a feature that makes more money.

Roy: That’s probably a good starting point.

Derek: The Lean folks probably come from that lineage that really says, value is that which makes you money, that which saves you money, or those things that help you discover how to make or save money.

I think that that’s not a bad definition. What if you’re working in an industry where money is not the end goal? How do you deal with things like customer satisfaction or delight, or some of the other elements that are important? May be you could push those back to; if your customers are happy they refer people enough. If they refer people, that makes you money.

You’re really talking about making more money. I think the problem is…I don’t think people are having those conversations. They just say, “Yeah well, I met my value stream and I’m going to provide a whole lot of value and the user stories have to have a value clause.”

When you say, “OK, what is it that you guys value?” “Value. I’m just talking value. Come on man, value.”

Roy: I guess it’s kind of specific to your vision, right? Because, if your vision is, for example, to make a huge impact in the world, money may be totally irrelevant.

Value Is What You Like

Derek: I think Ron Jefferies, I think kind of put it is…it’s what makes you happy. I think that that’s a fairly reasonable answer from a Zen kind of state, right?

Roy: Who is you in this context?

Derek: Value is what makes people happy, right? If you’re making your customers happy they’re going to give you money or they’re going to do whatever you’re trying to drive them to do. If you’re happy doing what you want, you get the personal satisfaction that what you’re doing is meaningful and has a purpose and everything else.

I think that’s over simplified. can you imagine if people ran around going “Your user stories have to make you happy. Do what makes you happy. Whatever makes you happy.” Right? I think that the problem is, not that people use the word value, but rather that I don’t think people are talking about what it means.

Not a single person that I talked to could respond back with a specific of what value means. Except, I will give Alan Shalloway credit. He gave the lean answer for what value means. Most people couldn’t answer the question. How are we going around professing “Do things that deliver value” when we don’t even know what that means?

Roy: I think happiness is a good place to start. You talked about, obviously can’t go around and always say, “Do what makes you happy.” In the long run, not having a job might not make you happy. If you keep that in the long sight…

Jade: Well, it’s not about making you happy. It’s about making your customer happy. Whoever it is that’s a recipient of what you’re doing.

What We Like Or What The Customer Likes

Roy: I don’t know if I agree with that. Why do we work? Right? I think the end result of why people work in general is to make themselves happy…

Jade: If we start to optimize for our own happiness, we’re not going to build the things that delight our customers.

[ crosstalk ]

Roy: Only if we shallowly make ourselves happy, right?

Clayton: No, but if you’re talking about developing a feature, or if you have a list of features and you’re trying to say like, “I want to do the one that’s most valuable,” and that’s the way people talk, right? “Let’s do the feature that delivers the most value the customer” I don’t think it has anything to do with your meaning…

Roy: Yeah, that’s a good point. It’s too high level to prioritize one thing versus another.

Conflict Of Delight

Derek: I think the thing is I think you could say it’s your own happiness as well. The problem is, and this is where I went back with Ron on was, that I think that is potentially non‑sustainable.

If what makes me happy is doing 3D video games and I work for a social media company and therefore, I don’t do any work except for 3D video games. I’m probably either not going to be not employed very long with said company or the company is going to have operative problems to the point where I’m not happy for other reasons.

Roy: Right, that’s what I’m saying. It’s short‑sighted thinking in terms of trying to do what makes you happy, right? I totally agree with you but I guess what I’m saying is in the end result you’re still trying to make yourself happy you’re just taking the long view and saying I can’t do what makes me happiest right now because in the long‑term I won’t be.

You Have To Know Your Own Values

Derek: I don’t even know if it’s that. I think this goes back to if you’re talking the Zen conversation, right? One of the things that you’re saying is if I really want to do 3D video game programming, why am I working for a social media company that’s not allowing me to do 3D video game programming?

If you follow that line if it doesn’t line up to my value system, why am I doing the work? Why am I not going and finding another job that makes me happy and makes my customer, however…

The problem is it takes a level of actualization to have that be true for everyone. That’s what I was really asking is “OK, I’m OK with that definition but not everybody is mentally there to make that so what does the path to get there look like?”

Clayton: We were talking about a shared vision, maybe putting it from a company’s perspective. If the organization has a shared vision then we were thinking it might be easier for them to assign value to things based on what achieves that shared vision or what gets them closer to that. I think is more in line with the customer delight stuff and probably further away from necessarily dollars. We realize in some cases that maybe your shared vision is very money‑oriented so that would be a reasonable way to value things.

No One Inspired By Money Alone

Roy: Most people tend not to get, especially in larger companies and even the smaller ones, I find that people don’t seem to get that motivated based on visions around money to a point, right? Nobody gets inspired by “We are going to increase sales by 25 percent”.

Clayton: That would be a crappy shared vision. If we’re talking about the Red Cross; the Red Cross has efforts where measuring money would make sense as far as donations are concerned. That’s why I think you could totally have some stuff to say, “Hey if we implement these features, we could increase donations.”

Roy: That’s how your vision, no, no… [crosstalk]

Clayton: No, that would be a money thing but they could also have stuff that could be surrounding. We need to be better at helping other people. That’s like their core right? I don’t know what their mission or vision statement is, but at their core they help people.

There are things they could do to help people that have nothing to do necessarily with money. That’s separate from the donation stuff.

Derek: Most companies don’t have vision. They don’t have vision as a company and they certainly don’t have vision at a product level. If Apple’s vision for the iPhone was to make two billion dollars on their phone sales in two years, they probably would have not had any engineers at Apple really interested in working on their product.

Instead, by saying, “We are going to transform how people think about mobile computing and we’re going to transform how people interact with computers in a substantial way,” I think they get a hell of a lot more buy‑in and by getting that buy‑in, they probably have a product that sells a lot better.

That is so rare in companies. We are in companies all the time where the product vision is either “More customers this quarter”, “Less churn this quarter”, something similar. I’m not saying that those numbers are bad things to have and that you shouldn’t measure those things and that you shouldn’t have targets for those things, but that is where the vision begins and ends.

There is no vision of “We want to radically change whatever marketplace we’re in.” “We want to be the talk of the town” or whatever it is. There is nothing substantial. How, when you get a story in, how do you measure that toward 25 percent increase in customers? That gives…really difficult to aspire to that.

Maybe It Doesn’t Matter, It’s Just What You Like

Clayton: Let’s say all you heard about was increasing customers and you heard a bunch of stories that you thought could achieve that goal and you could measure; that was your value…you were saying, this is more valuable because I think I can get more customers, that’s all I care about.

Are we just saying that value is relative in that regard. That might work for a while and it’s OK if you call value whatever gets me more of X. It may be for some people that are really self‑actualized its happiness and for the people that all they can think about is getting more customers It’s just more customers.

Whatever that means to that end I don’t care. That’s what I am calling about you.

Roy: Those people are in the same organization?

Clayton: No, I’m saying, is that fair to just say that value…I think that goes back to value is whatever the hell you want it to be.

Roy: Sure. Whatever makes you feel good!

Clayton: I don’t really think that forwards the conversation.

Roy: I guess step one is that you need to as a company find out what you value and I think most people aren’t doing that.

Most People Aren’t Even Talking About It

Derek: I don’t even think they are talking about it. In the sense of …even if we said like it’s to get more customers. We’re implementing all sorts of crap features that have nothing to do with getting us more customers. It’s someone screaming real loud at Customer X or Boss Y or UX person Z is saying I want this and they’re not tying it back to, well this gets us more customers.

Clayton: I think it’s to the detriment of…as long as we are going to talk about value…and the Agile Community, I don’t know that it can be really be this totally abstract concept that’s…make it whatever you want…there is no concrete term, or it doesn’t matter what you call it. Just value.

We’re just back to the point of being able to just talk about value and make yourself sound important or smart. I don’t think that’s helpful at all.

Derek: It’s because you don’t care about quality.


What Will Be Hot Next

Clayton: If we wait long enough until the value thing gets boring and then can move on to…

Derek: Something else will come up next. I think that this is the ebb and flows in this community, whether it be that people are trying to sell their expertise or whether it’s the…they don’t want to look stupid or whatever.

I think people don’t like to say, “we don’t have a good answer.” I think that’s a scary thing to say is, we’re shooting this word out all over the place like we are experts in value. When it comes down to it, we really can’t pin our fingers…or put our thumbs on what value really means. Be eloquent about how to say that to someone. Maybe there are some people out there that are doing that, right?

Clayton: They are probably not an Agile Community though. I mean that’s how everything in the other community works. The people that think they have the answer for something and it turns out that they are just scratching the surface of some other huge body of knowledge that has existed forever. Then there is some expert over there who knows what he is talking about.

Roy: In the meantime you have a handy tool for building credibility. Just mention your increasing value and you’re good.

Clayton: I think it’s funny if you look at the value of ValueStream. If you look at the hashtag [crosstalk] …and you watch that there is so much stuff that goes on there where it’s totally spammy stuff. You can tell people are picking certain key words and they’re using… they’re talking about things in a certain way.

Especially people who are talking about things like value. They are picking some certain topic and they’re acting like it’s all already figured out, which I feel is at odds with the way we talk having an agile mindset. You aren’t necessarily going to settle on this is the definitive answer for doing this every single time. That’s the way people talk about it.

Derek: I’ve got the solution! Nothing could be better.

Clayton: Right, I mean that doesn’t make sense.

Derek: We like to talk about learning loops, not actually use them.

Clayton: I guess that’s convenient.

Roy: All right, well thank you for joining us. Please come and talk to us on Facebook.

We got some feedback the other day, which is great, except that it was about something that was going wrong, which sucks. It was also because we got to interact with one of our listeners. We’d love for you guys to come and interact with us on Facebook, even when things are going well. So check that out at Facebook.com/agileweekly.

Thank you.

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