The Value of Value

Back in 1997, an enterprising project manager at London Underground put out an advert for people to be trained in value management.  He wanted a pool of trained facilitators to work on all projects and programmes at LU, so that best value could be achieved for the investment money available.  I can’t remember the advert exactly but it said something like

“Do you want to learn how to get better returns for your money?”

Well, doh, yes!

Who wouldn’t?  Since I’m also a qualified accountant, I like the idea that, not only could I tell people how much they’ll save by a given action, but I’d also be able to help them get the ideas.  I also have the possibly grandiose view that Britain always used to be famed for its quality and just rolled over when it lost trade on price; this could be a way to reverse that trend.

The training gave me a way to structure a problem so that you can come up with more alternative ideas to solve it.  I  eventually qualified as a PVM (professional in value management) and all was well for a time.  Then I found that people didn’t seem interested anymore.  All they wanted was to find ways to deliver the solution they thought would work best as cheaply as possible.  Whilst value management can be used like that, you don’t get half as much from it, so it’s not surprising that it became regarded as little more than a bolt-on to a brainstorming exercise.

But value is too important to leave to chance, especially any public money is involved.  People have learned to accept that you don’t leave risk to chance (hence the proliferation of risk management jobs) and nobody ever felt you could leave finance to chance, so why is nobody bothered about whether what they do is of significant value?  Surely neither of the other two feature until you have a customer?  What’s your value to your customer?  If you don’t know that, you have a serious risk of losing them (or not gaining them) and therefore no finance to manage! Value management offers plenty of ways to help people define value, so it can’t simply be because it’s hard – though there can be no doubt that it is.

Why do you think it is hard to get people to focus on this part of management?

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