Professor and author Morten Hansen wrote an excellent article on the American Management Association Playbook site titled “One Big Mistake Managers Must Avoid (It’s About Your Time)“.
In the article, he shares a key finding from his study of more than 5,000 managers and employees: namely that they tend to focus more on internal goals and metrics than on the value being delivered.
To remedy this, he suggests first identifying what’s valuable, then assessing your calendar and reducing non-value items, and finally, reallocating your time, shifting from goals to value activities.
While the article is directed at helping managers and their employees shift to higher value activities, I’d add that the same principles should be applied at a macro level organizationally.
To start with, it’s important to define a strategic hierarchy of organizational missions, objectives, strategies, and programs/projects that support those strategies. This can help ensure that program and project work is tied to value from the beginning.
What about non-project activities? Some organizations consider all work to be “project” work. After all, even operational and sustaining work can be tied to an annual or quarterly bucket project, which itself is tied to the objective of “keeping the lights on”. Percentage-based or effort-based resource allocations can be applied to that work.
In essence, the goal is to see the big picture of demand for people’s time for the entire spectrum of activities. From there you can get a better sense about whether you’re distributing that time wisely at an organizational level.
This is where resource planning and continuous reallocation based on priorities come in, always striving for greatest value (which we know can change over time). The result is greater business agility, less waste, and happier customers.
So, at a macro level, the same three principles outlined in the article apply:
- Identify what’s valuable (by setting a strategic hierarchy and tying programs and projects to it)
- Aim to reduce non-value work (by assessing your funding and resource allocations by strategy)
- Shift to high value work — (by continuously reallocating based on priorities and value)
If this is combined with Hansen’s article’s recommendations for managers and employees to focus on value, then you can truly say you have a value-focused organization from the top-down and bottom-up.