Monday, 28 April 2014

More Thoughts On the Value Management Office

In my previous post I outlined a proposal for a Value Management Office (VMO) to oversee many of the essential business activities needed in any reasonably sized organisation but which perhaps add no or little direct value to the customer. In lean terminology this is considered as Type I Muda.

I've spent a lot of time in organisations which obsess about things that don't add any value to the customer. In fact they detract people from doing the things that do add value, and at the same time cause folk so much angst that they start to loathe the workplace and their jobs in general. In many organisations these activities are so completely out of control (think internal project status reporting as an example) that they have spawned countless functions and roles to ensure their continuity, when the reality is that almost all these things should have been culled years ago. If you introduced many of these tasks into a start-up they'd be bust before the end of the week!

The thinking behind the VMO has come about from discussions with my partner (who works in a PMO for a major Global IT organisation) and my own experiences from both the top and bottom of the corporate food chain. It  also coincides with some recent posts from Bob Marshall, writing about 'meeting folk's needs' (The Antimatter Principle). I'm sure Bob will have issues with many of my ideas, but this is my Utopian vision, not his!

By centralising many of the functions and activities which generally take place throughout the organisation it is possible to take a holistic view of them all and make some sense out of the chaos. Instead of each part of the business (and each and every manager) building cottage industries out of things that should be simple administrative tasks the VMO oversees a single set of processes that are designed to be fit for purpose across the enterprise.

One outcome of this should be to reduce the burden to the staff who so often find themselves on the receiving end of multiple demands from multiple sources for the same information, with no idea why or how that information is being used (as indeed do few of the people demanding the information in the first place).

This in turn should allow 'managers' to focus on things that really matter, like removing obstacles rather than building them, and allow staff to get on with what they are best at - designing, building and implementing products and services to the delight of their customers.

Some organisations run a "Shared Services" function, but in my experience these groups still operate largely as silos, and only have very limited scope. This is especially true in command and control centres, where 'traditional' managers are threatened with a loss of power and control, and will set up their own systems, duplicating and undermining the shared services mandate. Additionally, shared services tend to operate 'top down' dictating to the workforce rather than collaborating with them.

With regard to changes, the VMO acts as the overseer of significant organisational change. It should not decide which changes become implemented, but act as a facilitator between multiple stakeholders, and to prevent change conflicts. It does this by bringing together subject matter experts who are nominated by the stakeholders. The VMO also acts as the guardian of good practice within the business, where individuals and teams can put forward ideas which can be shared and implemented on a wider basis.

Finally the VMO should be the custodian of organisational metrics and measurement, ensuring data is collected and used for the benefit of the whole organisation and to eliminate the need for multiple random data requests from staff.

Ultimately, the success of the VMO depends on a shared understanding of its role within the organisation and how other functions, managers and staff interact with it (and each other). This demands a level of maturity and some rethinking of the role of managers within the business which many people may find hard to accept.

But Utopia isn't going to get built without some pain, and it certainly isn't going to get built overnight.

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