How do you add value? Degrees of value separation
A friend asked me the other day about my job and what I actually did. It’s difficult to explain IT to people who are not in the industry because many think all we do is fix computers. Now try to explain project management and Scrum. Regardless as I was explaining my role as a ScrumMaster and project manager in application development he rephrased his question, “How do you make the company money?” A valid question, but one that takes some thought.
So I had to determine how to explain how a project manager/ScrumMaster often seen as an overhead expense makes the company money. In my company I’m not capitalized, so I don’t bill back to other groups or projects for my time. I don’t produce any code. I don’t produce any deliverables that are easy to trace into the finished project. I facilitate, I remove obstacles, I coach the team, so really I don’t make the company money in a traditional and easily trackable sense, but I do add value.
By facilitating Scrum ceremonies, removing obstacles, and coaching the team (as well as the other tasks I do on a day-to-day basis) I allow the team to contribute their maximum amount of effort and value. When I set up meetings or work to remove an obstacle, it frees up their time to complete their work. By cutting through red tape and facilitating meetings I can help them to come to conclusions they may have reached more slowly on their own. By coaching, I help them to work more efficiently by themselves and with their teammates. These products are a higher quality than they would be if the team needed to do all this “overhead” work and they are delivered to market faster. This means new features can be sold quicker, more sales can be made, bugs can be fixed more quickly, the list goes on. That is how I add value. That is how I make the company money.
I don’t want to sound full of myself because every role is an important one. I think some roles feel less important than others though. Take offshore developers, there’s no doubt they have felt like second class citizens a time or two. Contractors can feel like not a part of the team as well. QA/testers often feels this way when they are left until the end as an afterthought, even when using Scrum. Dependent teams, though their work is often very important to the final product, can feel this way because they are only looped in for a short period of time to “get something”. When their portion is complete they are often excluded from receiving praise and credit in the final product. So I challenge you, determine your role on the team and how you’re providing value. Then encourage your team members to do the same (retrospective idea anyone?). Sometimes there are many degrees of separation, sometimes there are few. Regardless of the area in between the role and the value to the end customer and company, all roles should be able to be mapped back to value and no one roles is more or less important than the other.
This might also help you to explain your job to someone who is unfamiliar with the industry. It did for me and gave me a different perspective on what my company value is and what I can continue to do to increase it.