What makes a good value statement?

I often talk to people about their “value statement”—a statement of the value of their programme or project. But how do we make our value statement most effective? From my experiences, both positive and negative, wherever possible it should be…

  • Focused on stakeholder benefits. We want to make a positive change for our stakeholders. As a guiding light for everyone in and around the programme, the value statement should capture that.
  • Unambiguous. Of course we don’t want people interpretting our statements differently. This is why I usually insist on value statements being measurable, and it may help to include the words “as measured by…”. It’s difficult for something to contain ambiguity if we know how to measure it. “Market value” is quite vague; “revenue” is better”; “revenue across all product lines on a rolling 12 month basis” is better again.
  • Supported at the highest levels. There are key people who can declare our project a failure. This is not only demotivating, but can lead to them cancelling the rest of the project, withholding funds for a future project, or imposing unwanted constraints. We dramatically increase the chances of this if those people don’t agree or are not clear on the value we’re delivering. If they do agree on the value we’re delivering then we do at least stand a chance of satisfying them.
  • Understood by the people on the ground. There are dozens of tiny decisions made on the ground every day by individuals; there are dozens of larger decisions made every week by those people in groups. If the people on the ground don’t understand the value statement then those dozens of tiny decisions cannot hope to go in the same direction. It’s essential to align the people doing the work with the expectations at the top level.
  • Non-binary. If a value statement describes success on a sliding scale then there’s more opportunity for success. Successive milestones can check for increasing levels of success—more value delivered at each checkpoint. By contrast binary success measures are strictly pass or fail—and usually fail if every box isn’t ticked. A sliding scale offers more flexibility and “walkawayability”. Each time we deliver more stakeholder value we have the opportunity to shift direction without losing what we’ve done so far.
  • Measurable thoughout the project. Ideally we should be able to assess our progress against our goal continually. This allows us to make informed decisions as we go, assess the outcome of previous decisions, and generally enhance steering.
  • Independent of solution. Primarily we should be delivering “benefits” not “things”. We will deliver “things”, too, but they are only things to deliver the benefits. By focusing success on delivering benefits we provide ourselves and our teams with greater flexibility over creating the most appropriate solutions.

Some of these aspects of an effective value statement are harder to achieve than others. For example, getting senior stakeholder support is often challenging, especially if it’s support for something unambiguous. But a strong value statement with strong support can significantly increase the chance of a project or programme’s success.

Photo by Chris Blakeley