Value is more than money

This got me thinking

Michael Nygard tweeted
'The phrase "business value" seems to hide uncertainty behind vagueness. Can we just say "money" instead?'
I disagree. Or more accurately, I disagree with what I infer Michael means by this single tweet. I cannot say with any certainty what he meant, much less address the context of or inspiration behind his statement.

Greed and Gluttony

To say, "We are in business for profit.", is to say "We live to eat."
This is fundamentally backward. This is beyond misguided for such a perspective is ultimately fatal to any company or person who lives by these respective statements. Undoubtedly, the actions necessary to support the belief will result in a tragic demise, whereby the very thing you identify as your purpose will cause your termination.

These amount to nothing more than rationalizations for greed and gluttony.
Paved with Good Intentions
Of course, it is important that a company generate enough revenue to sustain operations. Without this, the company cannot endure and cannot serve its purpose to humanity, in whatever form that might take. On behalf of every company, therefore, a group, committee, or department must exist whose purpose is oversight of the company's financial wellbeing.

This group has an awesome responsibility. One I am certain they do not take lightly. One I understand they consider paramount. Should they fail, the company will certainly fail. To best ensure success, they might conclude that their responsibility should be shared among all members of the organization.

If a company benefits when only a small portion of its employees commit themselves to a focus on profit,  surely increasing this focus will increase the resultant benefit.
Tunnel Vision
Tunnel Vision impedes an organism's ability to see beyond a restricted range due to flaws in the field of vision. This is, clearly, a dangerous affliction. Those who suffer from tunnel vision have diminished peripheral capabilities making them more prone to accidents and providing them less time to react to threats approaching from outside their line of vision. Metaphorically, a company that focuses a preponderance of staff on the "bottom-line" inadvertently (or perhaps intentionally) creates tunnel vision.

Staff learns to weigh all decisions based on short-term ROI. As a result, they seek lower cost (and typically lower quality) support services, try to get by on smaller staff without properly streamlining processes, second guess sales and marketing initiatives, and defer investments in facilities and equipment.

But these efforts result in lower quality products, lower employee satisfaction, and loss of market share. For most companies, these are counter to long-term success.


So if money's not the point, what is?
I can tell you that for LeanDog, the point is to make the world a better place through better software development.

I don't know what the point is where you work. Maybe it is to provide people a more convenient solution to a common problem. Maybe it is to ease people's pain, angst, fear, or concerns. Maybe it is to make people feel better, healthier, happier. I don't know. But I am hopeful the point of your company is not to put money in the pockets of the shareholders.
Story value is in how they serve the purpose
Don't measure the value of your stories in money. Measure the value of your stories in how well they serve the purpose of the organization. And if you can't see the connection between the stories and the purpose of the organization, I'd say that's a project smell. If we don't know how what we are doing furthers the company in the pursuit of its mission, why do it at all?


  1. The book you should look at is "Management Rewired", which I read partly when I was on a boat. It confirms that steering with purpose is more important than control or details. I will have to buy my own copy, but maybe you'll find common ground with the author.

  2. Hi Michael,

    Well, there's the trouble with 140 characters. Terse and pithy dominates elaborated discourse.

    You are speaking in the context of a purpose driven business. I wish all business operated the way that you describe LeanDog.

    Sadly, for most of use, the corporate "mission statement" is just something that sits behind glass on the wall. It has little to do with the way things actually operate or how decisions are made. You could just as easily replace it with stock photos of "happy customers". We are so far away from consciousness of our purpose that people who _do_ talk about such things are regarded with wary suspicion.

    In my tweet, I was addressing a dynamic that I see all too frequently. In my experience, many people in businesses--especially large corporations--only have the vaguest notion how their work connects to the company's health and well-being. This leads to rampant goal separation. Project teams work to complete projects regardless of how well the outcome fits the mission of the company. Lacking the larger vision, each group devolves into self-protection: drawing their own boxes tight around them and pushing responsibilities into the interstices between org chart boxes. ("Mind the gap.")

    I think that "biz speak" is too-frequently used as a cover for ignorance. People prefer to talk about abstractions rather than reveal that they actually don't know what they're talking about. I'd rather admit ignorance and find the real connections between my work and the organization's success. The more concretely we talk, the more we can connect words with actions and the more we can assess our work.

    Hope that clarifies