The Value Adding Role Models

Long distance solitary travel typically require entertainment – music, books, movies etc. Sometimes, none of these are available – one prefers to sleep.

In one recent journey, I tried to sleep but couldn’t. I ended up making some abstractions about life stages, project team compositions and came up with a chain of thought roughly resembling what is given below! It all started with my mind recalling the details of a recent project… I first started a mental estimation of the effort involved & the team size that would be effective etc. Then it stuck me! Instead of the number, I should look at the kind of roles that the large project will need…

So, I started listing them…

Then tried to imagine myself fitting into those roles & found that perhaps at various stages in my life I was known to be good in these roles (but not all of them at the same time)!

I then tried to imagine one of my good friends over many years, but known to have a diametrically different viewpoint on many issues, performing these roles. He too had played many of these roles albeit in a different sequence!

Lastly, I tried to think of other types of projects from my past and the best contributors in all those projects… I found that almost every project, big and small, demanded all these roles to be successful & the best contributors were ones whose ability to play one of these roles corresponded with the stage of the project that also demanded such a value adder!

Thus, my mind, in an idle moment, taught me some B-School fundas. Here is this gospel according to me…

Individuals involved in organisational activities fall under two broad categories – the Value Adders (VA) and Value Non-Adders (VnA) according to how much value they contribute by themselves towards the success of the activity.

Why do VnA exist? VnA exist because of one of the following reasons, I suppose… (a) The scope demanded of them by the powers-that-be does not match their Mode of Value Addition – MoVA, (b) They don’t have the awareness of the big picture to which they are delivering, or, (c) They don’t like to contribute (should be very rare, in a professional setup).

Let us turn the attention back to the VA… There are two subtypes – the regular VA and the compulsive VA. I guess, it is fashionable to call the compulsive VA as “proactive individuals”. 😉

Be it as it may, VA generally operate in one of the following MoVA (here it comes, folks! In no specific order)…

Exploitation – Given a platform, process or a fundamental construct, a VA in this mode, would be able to quickly figure out the limits of the construct and enable the organisational activity to be carried out using all features (some may even be considered esoteric) of the construct. E.g. Once when I was trained on software tracing capability available in the commercial GSM MSC that we had, I could figure out a way to trap long duration phone calls happening in the system to be tracked and registered as an alarm in real time. This helped us overcome some fraud attempts on our network.

Acceleration – A VA, in this mode, would analyse the fundamental construct and create simple tools to explore & exploit the construct. In the process, the VA would create a large repository of cheat-sheets, building blocks, prefab components ahead of the time of actual demand. Thus, in such a mode, a VA would enable the organisational activity to be accelerated towards its goal. E.g. Typical software accelerators that get built have demonstrated this model of value addition too often.

Unification – In this mode of value addition, a VA would continuously try to create a harmonised big picture like with The Unification Theories in Physics. In organisational settings where there are multifarious units each with their own objectives, domain knowledge, trade secrets etc., unification forces add a lot of value. E.g. Recently, I was involved as part of a task force trying to articulate service offerings from Competency Streams into various industry verticals. With vertical teams not clued in on the possibilities from the competency streams & the competency teams possessing no clues about the demands in the verticals, the task force members frequently had to operate in Unification MoVA!

Extension – in this mode, a VA would be able to look at broad trends of happenings around the basic construct and predict future requirements to be addressed, as well. The future requirements may be adjoining areas or extrapolated areas. We have a tendency to call such VAs as Thought Leaders. E.g. Whenever the industry started talking about IPTV applications, some of my team members used to champion the cause of what they called TV-Commerce solutions & targeted advertisements.

Last, but not the least…

Restart – In this mode, a strong tendency to start from scratch, with a clean slate, if I am allowed to mix up expressions, is demonstrated. The revisionist value addition enables troubleshooting, as well as, ensures that the original goals of an activity are not forgotten. This is also a demonstration of constructive dissatisfaction at work that can enable continuous improvements. E.g. I have seen a number of good software coders improve their code continuously through-out the duration of a project; regressing test cases is another systematic process example.

I would like to end the post with a set of questions, as usual…

(a) What do you think of this theory (fancy name for an idle mind’s ramblings 🙂 )?
(b) Are there any other MoVAs that would complete the picture?
(c) I feel that organisations should assess & groom MoVA of individuals than proficiencies. Do you agree?
(d) Can there be instruments to measure MoVA of individuals / Activities / Life-stages?
(e) Can there be maturity models associated with MoVA?

Please do post your ideas….

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4 thoughts on “The Value Adding Role Models

  1. TS, this is for sure, a theory in making. It needs a formulation of a few hypotheses that can be proved. You will need data for this, which unfortunately could be subjective.
    There is a lot of literature available on what motivates a person, his/her personality vs situation and the interaction between the two, and see why they add value to a role or not.
    In the yesteryears, organisations adopted a paternalistic view of their employees and decided their career progression. Perhaps they knew how to sequence the roles for optimal experiences and create enough drivers for motivation. The individuals in turn, most always added value.
    In today’s world, the employee is the entrepreneur of his/her career and so will have to find out ways to gain the appropriate experience and ways to add value.
    The moot point is: are they equipped to add value in the roles they are in?

  2. Very Neat take on a critical function. I would add ‘Harmonizer’ or ‘Galvanizer’ as the other VA – often conflcts, lack of communication, trust etc are the bane of projects – it takes one such person to set it on the right course. Not sure if the Restarter VA would be appropriate as a VA type here since practically we dont have the chance to restart from scratch in most cases. and on a lighter note, the Value non Adder reminds me of the Puff Adder – equally mortifying and deadly!

  3. While doing some research on Deming’s SoPK, one of the points (out of 14) he has mentioned (well, almost) was, “Top management may be on course, but the rest of the company may be off somewhere doing their best. Doing your best is not enough. You have to know what to do. Then do your best”

    Somewhere, my personal take is, the Middle Mgmt is responsible to make this happen and/or not let this be a reality.

    Over the period of time, an employee gathers a lot of experience thru customer interaction, tech/behv trainings, social interactions & conferences/seminars. Many a times, this results in to a paradigm shift in the thought-process of an individual and eventually, his personal aspirations to achieve newer goals / greater heights. Through constant feedback and other methods, the MM can keep an eye on such ‘potential VAs’ and channelize their energies to draw / extract the VA-power from such individuals and also help them move up the charts. Thus, making it a ‘Win-Win’ situation for both.

    A wonderful subject to discuss and a healthy-debate. Thanks for giving some more ‘food for thought’ to chew on.

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