Forget About Value. Focus on Morale.

A lot of attention is given to the term value. We want to know how much value a software development team creates with each deliverable. Unfortunately, value is a difficult thing to measure so it may be better to view the problem differently.

What has value?

The simple answer is everything — everything is valuable to someone.

How much value does any particular deliverable have?

It depends. For example, some companies place high value on the document “thud factor”. What’s that? It’s the sound a paper document makes when you drop it on the desk of your boss or client. Other companies view such artifacts as kindling. So I can’t tell you the value of anything you produce. Only your boss, client or stakeholder can do that.

One thing I can assure you of is that the executable software you deliver has more value than any other deliverable — in fact, it likely has more value than all the other deliverables combined.

Don’t chase the value chain.

You could spend lots of time and money chasing the value chain, that is, trying to maximize the value of your team’s efforts. Don’t waste your time. Let the bean counters worry about value. You need to worry about morale.

Morale has a huge and often hidden impact on team performance and resulting value. Obviously, team performance directly impacts the quantity and quality of deliverables. You’re going to ask how to measure morale, right? Forget about measuring it. You’ll see morale in the way people behave. People with high morale have more energy. They speak up. They collaborate. They have fun. And most importantly, they deliver.

Consider this example. Let’s say a team with average morale can produce $100 of value for every $100 of sunk cost — a dollar of spending results in a dollar of output. Not great but not bad, right? (Actually, companies have to produce more than a dollar of output for every dollar they spend so they can grow the business. But I digress.) A team with poor morale might produce $50 or less of value delivered for every $100 spent. A team with high morale might produce $200 or more of value for every $100 spent.

How can that be?

Morale dramatically affects productivity and quality. It’s not just a matter of how much gets delivered. It’s also a matter of the quality of the deliveries. Teams with poor morale deliver less software with more defects. If the software is full of bugs, it has no value. (Actually, it may have negative value but let’s not go there.)

Focus on improving morale not increasing value. When morale is high, value will be too.

photo credit: mightymoss via photopin cc

Updated: November 28, 2012 — 10:41 pm