Reflections on the Ever Recurring Question: "What is Value?"

Reread an older post by Bob Marshall on What is Value?.

While there can be many debates on the topic, the last section is a gem!

I quote it here:

If we undertake to deliver some feature or story which does not directly address this active constraint, then we are failing to deliver anything of (immediate) value. If it’s not of immediate value, then it has no utility, and in fact it’s a negative effort – in that it is simply adding to Inventory (assuming it has some redeemable value in the future) or becomes a write-off as an Operating Expense (assuming it turns out to have no redeemable value).

Thus, the most valuable thing to deliver to a customer is only, ever, something that addresses their current constraint. Actually, not only the most valuable thing to deliver, but the only valuable thing we can deliver.

It may not be immediately obvious, but a moment’s thought along this line of reasoning will also show that many constraints in an organisation will never be addressed or addressable by software. In which case it’s better to suspend work on – and delivery of – all stories until such time as the current constraint shifts and the software does address the (new) current constraint.

Of course for this to work, you need to know what your customer’s constraint really is - and that requires second or third order thinking!

Any thoughts?


It really shows how far we can carry this ToC back to the backlog !!!

Yep, this is definitely great food for thought. As a facilitator and consultant working in large, primarily traditional organizations, the challenge is to align on the constraint.

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To which I would add, if organizations were super-smart in identifying their non-software constraints then most of us would go out of business instantaneously.

Joking apart, that paragraph there actually reminds of an aspect of Agility which is satisfying the customer. Collaborating with them all the way to solve their problems.

What Marshall implies is rather interesting: Let’s work together to satisfy the customer by opening their constraints, as opposed to delivering better software.

Lightbulb moment.

Thanks for sharing this Steve.


Addressing the constraint of the customer is the core of TOC.

Maybe read Goldratt’s “It is Not Luck” for more of this!


However, it gets tricky … That would mean that all reports and update to GL functions would be waste like some cut throat managerial approaches would suggest …

But it can be argued that those functions elevate, support the constraint…

Wow. This exactly addresses the problem of fool’s gold, i.e. things people pay for, but ultimately make no use of.
These are sourcs of income for someone, but not sources of value - i.e., do not add wealth.

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What does value-to-customer have to with “constraints”? Either theirs, or ours?
What definition of ‘value’ is assumed here?
As a suggestion, there is a precise technical definition of value-to-customer in ISO Standard #16355 for New Product Development. And there is nothing about “constraints” in it (it does talk about “problems” as one of four sources of ‘value’).
If you are producing a game (like Fortnite), what customer limitation or “constraint” are you addressing?

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Interesting questions, @REZ

The most important one is this one:

The answer is: both. Unless you can develop win-win solutions, you’re not doing it right.

What the thread implied earlier is that you should look beyond your own reality and reason in terms of the Customer’s value. How can that be defined?

I just read a definition a couple of days ago (cannot recall source). It is defined as the maximum amount of money the Customer would be willing to pay you to get what you are giving him.

If ISO Standards do not contemplate the presence of Constraints, I am not surprised.

But in #tameflow we do.

So whatever you produce to create that Customer Value, consider how it will be impacted by your own Constraint - and reason in terms of Financial Throughput Rate on the Constraint.

What’s the Constraint of a game? Great question… what is mostly preventing the player from having more fun? I will let the game companies do their own analysis.

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