Work That Matters: The Three Questions of Value Add

I made a quick stop this weekend at (usually) one of my favorite Do-It-Yourself hardware and lumber stores. Even though I like browsing around, with a busy day of projects on the schedule, I was in a hurry to get in and get out. So, I was a bit miffed when the slow, scowling sales clerk at the return counter was having trouble with the transactions for the customers in front of me. Twenty feet away, two other store clerks were laughing and joking around with each other, oblivious to the growing line of disgruntled customers. In the other direction stood a partial pallet of product waiting to be placed on the empty shelf in front of it. The experience made me think of the three questions of value add we ask when doing an end-to-end assessment. Regardless of the business, everyone should know and ask these questions.

Is this work adding value for customers and would they be willing to pay for it? It seems obvious, but when was the last time these questions were asked about the work in your company?  How about every functional characteristic of your products? What about every aspect of the packaging? The work in manufacturing? The work of your suppliers? What about distribution or logistics or supply planning? How about the promises of the value proposition vs. the fulfillment of those promises? Ask this question about everything from the perspective of the customer. If the DIY store would have asked this question, I would have had a better experience this past weekend.

Is this work adding value for the business and would stakeholders want it done? Besides creating value for customers, businesses must create value for themselves. Ask this question about everything by putting yourself in the position of an investor. Is that work in the finance department creating value for investors? How about that report in the procurement department? Is that partial pallet of product waiting to be placed on the shelf creating any value? Is any inventory? What about all that rework in the accounting department? How about when a department meets its own goals but sub-optimizes the whole?

Is this work done for regulators or other stakeholders and are we complying? This question includes government regulations, communities in which the business is located, taxing authorities, etc. Ask this question from the perspective of compliance, not value creation (except for when it comes to community interests. Then it is legitimate to ask not only from the standpoint of compliance, but from the perspective of what kind of community partner you want to be. Are you doing your part to raise the standard of living in your communities?).

End-to-End (E2E™) is a methodology available for every business to identify and eliminate work that doesn’t matter (non-value added work) and focus on Work That Matters™: creating value for customers, the business, and the community (value added work). The starting point for E2E™ is these three questions. In our experience across numerous businesses, asking these three questions of everything a business does generates massive amounts of both incremental and strategic opportunities. And if a company has had even some basic training in end-to-end, every person in every department at any level can be involved in focusing the company on value added work… Work That Matters™.