The term “value-added” is certainly over used in all matters of business, whether or delivering a Venti latte at corner bistro or on the latest client proposal. I’ll even go so far to label it as a cliché.
Despite the over use, it’s still an important concept and one that you need to come to grips with in your actions every day and on everything you do. Webster defines it this way: an enhancement to a product or service that increases its value to customers. Based on this statement, the key questions you need to be asking, and asking often, are:
Who’s the client or recipient of the end result? Why do they need it?
What am I doing that provides value to this effort? How can I increase it 5x?
What happens if my involvement in the process/task goes away? Does anyone notice?
These are simple questions. But how often do you actually ask them in connection with what you are doing? Let’s say you’re investing hours and brain cells on a set of plans for a project that a client will never build...value added or subtracted to your firm? How about applying this to watching TV...value added or subtracted to you, your most important client?
As you begin to ask these questions repeatedly in each of your projects or undertakings you will identify:
1. Some that can go away.
2. Some that are generating value and in which you are adding value.
3. Some that are generating value and where you are not adding value.
Eliminate those actions in category #1today and use the time to focus your energy on brining yourself up to par in category three. Why are you not adding value? Lack of motivation, lack of direction, or lack of knowledge/skill?
As a final note, all of us “work” to meet someone else’s expectations. Even those people who are self-employed or business owners work for someone else. Therefore it’s vitally important to understand your client’s expectations and ensure your definition of a value-added performance incorporates your client’s expectations. Otherwise you may believe you’re providing added value when in fact, you’re not.
“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” Albert Einstein
Christian Knutson, P.E., PMP is a leader, civil engineer, and author. He’s an accomplished professional specializing in A/E/C work internationally and author of The Engineer Leader, a recognized blog on leadership and life success for engineers and professionals.