Are You Adding Value?

Written by Guest Blogger, Paula Bell, CEO at Paula A Bell Consulting.

In martial arts it’s very important to not waste energy. It’s a key point reiterated over, and over, and over again. Make EVERY movement count. You only make movements valuable to your protection. When you think about it, this concept is critical. The situation could be life or death.

This is one principle I leverage in everything I do. I tend to ask myself, “Are the activities I’m performing adding value to my life, my family and the communities I serve?” “Are the meetings, or work I’m producing, adding value to the organization?” This helps to ensure I’m not wasting
my energy, time and talents in areas that will not reap the harvest I’m sowing. I have found in organizations documentation is created, or tasks conducted, that add no value whatsoever to the consumers of the information from the work. What’s the point of producing an artifact no one is going to use? Is it just to say you have produced it and can check a box off of a task list? If that is the case the “value add” is zero.

Unfortunately, I have been in many situations where I have been mandated to produce documentation I know no one is going to read. In these situations, I work hard to influence a cultural change. I have also been on the other side as a leader in an organization where I have asked for documentation to be produced, in a certain way, because I know the specific needs of the audience needing to consume the information. In some of those instances I have received quite a bit of push back because it’s not the way it should be done according to what is stated in a book or in compliance with a theory. My question posed back to these types of situations is if it’s not going to produce any value the way it’s currently documented why are we producing it? Why are we wasting our energy? 

You see, we all learn different techniques and methodologies we put in our tool box throughout our careers. The application of those techniques is the critical component. I am not saying break rules or methodologies, or as some people say “GO ROGUE!!!!” What I am saying is you have to take time to understand the audiences in which you serve. Do not waste precious energy on work that does not add value.

In this article I will share some tips I’ve learned over the years in the areas of business
analysis/project management.


1. Understand your Organization

A lot of individuals don’t take time to understand the organizational structure because they are too busy completing work assigned. However, the more you understand the organization, the more strategic you can be in how you approach situations, produce documentation, and influence decisions.

2. Understand your Stakeholders

It’s important to conduct a stakeholder analysis of those you work with. Take time to understand:

  • The chain of command
  • The individual’s role
  • Their influence level
  • What they expect of you
  • What you expect of them
  • The individual’s perspective on the organization
  • The work being done
  • The value the organization you work in adds to the overall strategic goals

You may ask, “Why do I need to know all of this?” Knowledge is power. The more you understand about your stakeholders the more you understand what value means to them.

For example, one company I work with was asked by Senior Leadership to provide process documentation.  It sounds like an easy enough request, however, the first pass of creating the process documentation did not produce the value the Senior Leaders wanted. The reason it didn’t add the value expected is, it did not clearly and visually show the process at a level that allowed management to trace known issues to the portions of the process where they occur. The team was more focused on creating the documentation per standard, than understanding the needs of the audience consuming the information. A different group was engaged and there was conversation to ensure the documentation created would add value to the audience consuming it. We did not want a repeat of the first wave.  Even during the second pass there was debate on what should be produced; however, there has been consensus made where we need to focus on producing the documentation that will add value.  In some aspects this is a cultural and mind shift from what was done in the past, which clearly did not work.

3. Understand your role and expectations

It amazes me how many individuals in organizations have no clue what their role and expectations are. Some of this occurs because the information is not clearly articulated, you interpret it differently than others, or you just aren’t told.  When you aren’t clear on your role and expectations you could inadvertently produce non-value add work. For example, if you routinely perform a task and you ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?”, you may be performing a non-value add task. Sit down and have a conversation with your manager, project manager, and teams you work with.  This will help you, and everyone else, truly understand the role and expectations of those on the team and how everyone fits together to complete work.

4. Conduct crucial conversations

Provide examples of where waste is occurring and how the waste is hindering organizational growth, and execution of initiatives. Having these crucial conversations without examples will not be as effective so be sure to have solid examples.

5. Don’t give up

Cultural changes in organizations are extremely hard. However, we are change agents, correct? With change there may be some resistance so don’t let the resistance stop you. Anything worth having is worth fighting for.  Ensure you are not wasting energy, and adding value is worth fighting for.

Keep in mind that depending on where the direction is coming from in the organization you may have to do what you don’t necessarily agree with because you don’t have a choice.  Some organizational cultures are not ready for change. In these situations, work hard to help influence change as much as you can.

In my next article we will discuss tips for those in Leadership. 

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