Value, Outputs, and Outcomes
Focusing on outputs fosters a culture of following the process (which is not necessarily bad), but eventually may create blindness towards the outcomes (which is what we really, really want to get at).
We all talk about delivering value, value added, value chain… great terms, that are not always defined. What “value” means to this org? What “value” means to this team? Are those value definitions aligned?
It’s really surprising how much the whole industry is focused on the process, and the million discussions out there on whether this process (or framework for the sake of this discussion) is better than that other. While most of those conversations tip toeing through the real expectation out of it.
Are we getting the value we expected?
One of the exercises I always try with teams (and orgs of any size) is to ask that simple question at the end of each iteration (by iteration here I refer wildly to any sort of period that provides a reflection point).
Means and Ends
So, let me say it loudly: I do not care about story points, sprints, SAFe, Scrum, leadership styles, Kanban, Masters of the universe, written requirements, and/or non-verbal communication.
What I do care about is the value I get out of those tools and techniques.
Your products, your stories (your outputs) are there expecting to deliver a value (your outcomes).
Your process, your framework (whatever you follow) is there, expecting to deliver/enhance your working efficiency (your outcome).
Your leadership styles, your role definition, are there to develop your people, to give them references and facilitate them (not you) to solve problems.
Any tool you use, any deliverable you produce is there to satisfy an expectation of value.
So, no matter what you do, ALWAYS ask yourself: am I getting the outcome I was expecting?
If the answer is NO, then, please, please, please… don’t keep on pushing for the same outputs expecting a different outcome.
What “value” means to you
Not as simple as it sounds. And this is where your means and ends may relate.
I strongly recommend to make it explicit. Use whatever tool you feel more comfortable with. OKRs, Vision/Mission, Letter from the future…
Some teams/orgs define value as a specific deliverable. Full stop.
Some teams/orgs define value not only as the deliverable, but also include other factors (team flexibility, team moral, attrition…) they consider part of the value delivered.
The point is by being explicit with yourself and your teams and your org on what “value” means to you, your accounting system improves, your process gets aligned, your people understand what you are trying to achieve (and they may agree… or disagree).
And once you explicitly, and transparently define what value means to you, then assess frequently whether you are getting it.
Don’t cheat yourself.
And by the way, that’s the whole underlying principle in agility: helping orgs to establish that value based feedback loop.