The value statement

Photo by Matt NiemiOver the last 12 months I’ve worked increasingly with people to create what’s been termed a “value statement” for their various projects and programmes. Value statement isn’t my term (although it’s been used before for similar things [1], [2]) and I like it a lot.

A value statement is a very simple statement of the value our project or programme is aiming for. It’s the kind of thing that would go in the “why” or “goal” column of an impact map. So it’s not as complicated as a product vision or the template that’s used for a SAFe epic. It’s not as broad as an elevator pitch.

The point of a value statement is to ensure everyone is crystal clear on why we’re doing the thing. This is incredibly helpful when we’re prioritising or deciding what’s “good enough”. And it’s really important when the stakeholder group is very large, because it ensures everyone’s working towards the same thing.

Examples of value statements are: “to reduce cost”, “to increase product visibility”, “to decrease our attrition rate among business users”, “to reduce the system’s running time” and “to increase our clients’ confidence in our reports”.

There are two features of these kinds of value statement that I’ve found really important.

The first is that it’s short. This helps hugely in communication. It ensures messaging is clear and focused. This is key when we’re working in an organisation that’s large or complex, because that’s when team members may have multiple priorities themselves, and influential stakeholders may not be as fully engaged as we’d like. In these situations a simple, clear, easily-repeated message is very helpful for refocusing people.

The second feature is that it’s objectively measurable. This is important because it allows us to have clear-headed, objective conversations about competing priorities. Should we do option A or option B first? We can largely put opinions to one side and look at their respective value against our value statement. And if it’s still not obvious we might use a more sophisticated approach such as cost of delay.

Measurable value is also important in terms of success. A measurable goal allows us to demonstrate success objectively, and we’re much less likely to hear someone say “…but you didn’t do [some favourite feature]”.

There is much more to say about value statements, but I’ll add only one for now: Much credit goes to Tom Gilb that quantifying objectives has become a significant part of my toolkit. It’s a (fairly) simple technique with disproportionate power.

Photo by Matt Niemi