Creating a sequence of value statements

I’ve written before about the importance of having a value statement for a project or programme. This is a clear statement of the value we’re supposed to be delivering, and I find having this unlocks a huge number of benefits, mostly around communication, agreement and objective decision making.

But in practice creating a value statement isn’t easy. I can easily come up with a value statement for our project, and so can you, but they’re unlikely to be the same. We need to debate and consider things from different perspectives, and of course we need to involve other people, too, and their perspectives. We need to come up with something that is meaningful for all stakeholders—from those delivering the work to those signing the cheque.

This problem is even greater when the work in question is a large programme, often spanning years, and with many different strands. I’ve worked with teams who struggle to capture the entirety of the programme in a single statement of value which also provides essential focus and a measure of success on a month-by-month basis.

At times like these I suggest we develop a value statement just for the current major milestone, which gives us a horizon of a few months. The programme works through various stages (punctuated by milestones), and each stage will have a different flavour and focus. It’s therefore much more realistic to capture the focus of just the current stage, and then the next and the next, and so on in sequence.

But the reason for doing this is not because it’s easier. It really is about the focus. The purpose of a value statement is to ensure clarity and agreement of what we’re aiming for—what success means, and what we consider good (and excellent and adequte, etc). It’s difficult to provide that focus when we’re looking at an end point that is years in the future. It’s much more useful to provide focus for the nearer-term.

Additionally, programmes and large projects—and even organisations—should be able to shift their direction over time. They need to do that to ensure they respond to constantly-changing influences such as the economy, competitor activity, and lessons learned from early deliverables. So having a value statement for the nearer-term also gives us the chance to adjust our focus (embodied in a new value statement) as we go into the next stage.

I find value statements to be almost essential for projects and programmes. If we remind ourselves why we have them we can create them in a way that brings us the most advantage.

Photo by Nigel Appleton