Paul W. Smith
Show the Value of What You Do by Patricia and Jack Phillips - A Review
Bragging at work, even the humble kind, is generally not looked upon favorably. In performance appraisals where I have been required to rate myself, I feel I am treading on dangerous ground – too high and I’ll appear arrogant, too low and my superiors will suspect I know something that they don’t. In Show the Value of What You Do, authors Patricia and Jack Phillips offer a detailed process for showcasing the tangible value of your work product. Their short (~ 140 pp.) book makes use of numerous stories from their consulting practice to illustrate each step. Whether you are proposing a new program to senior management, or merely calling attention to your own value, there are many useful tips to be found here.
The best way to avoid being dismissed as a braggart is to back up claims and promises with compelling, credible evidence. The book is aimed at individuals trying to rescue a stalled career as well as team leaders who are gathering resources for a wider reaching goal. Though we live in a “show me” world”, the process for building a compelling case is often unclear. The authors state right up front that they will show individuals and teams how to measure success, how to change their thinking from merely completing activities to making significant, impactful investments, and how to project results to obtain future support.
We get a first glimpse of how difficult projects can be handled with the story of a Hospital Chaplain, a profession which most of us believe should be immune from bottom line accountability. The ultimate value of this activity will lie with the answer to “Was it worth it?”, and clear measures of patient outcomes are the aim here. The importance of good leadership is highlighted, as buy-in from those involved is key to a successful result. Critics can be deterred by considering several perspectives – hospital accountants may be focused on length of patient stays, while friends and family might care about less tangible things like spiritual support. This first chapter provides an overview of the process for showing value.
In the ensuing 5 chapters, the authors walk through the process in detail, covering Why?, How?, What?, How Much? and then wrapping up with “What’s It Worth?”. Connecting a project to a business need, and thus establishing impact, is an essential place to start. Each of us needs to be aware that we operate with competing mindsets - either an inward facing one (our own personal goals) or one that is outward facing (collective results and the challenges faced by others). An excellent way of answering “Why?” and thereby assessing impact is to ask, “What happens if we do nothing?”. Even with good intentions and planning, some stories still don’t end as expected.
In April of 2018, Starbucks Coffee responded to a racial bias incident at one of its locations by closing over 8,000 stores for an entire day, giving up millions in sales, and providing special training to its employees. Pundits noted that numerous studies show this type of training doesn’t actually work. Although the story drew lots of positive press coverage, the actual ROI has never been clear. The book suggests numerous ways of measuring tangible and even intangible results which can help in improving similar projects.
Some of the concepts introduced in the book, like the measurement of those intangibles, can seem a bit nebulous, but there is always a story to relate to, followed by some diagnostic tools to stimulate thinking and planning. Examples like building a traffic round-a-bout, improving police-community relations, or the Starbucks story above are clear and introduce situations we can all relate to. Objectives, critical for guiding any project, are explained using concrete definitions and multiple examples. One of the data-gathering considerations that caught my attention was “culture” - associated with trust, openness, transparency, and inclusivity – that can have a profound effect on information collection.
A very relevant contemporary example where culture plays a role is in the on-boarding process for millennials. Yet another timely example deals with the business case for working from home. It’s one thing to acknowledge that the world is changing and businesses need to adapt, but it’s not always obvious how to proceed. The book helps frame the process as an investment, and not just another cost.
The authors conclude with a discussion guide which can jump-start team collaboration and buy-in, both of which are important elements in a successful project. It is often said that “change is inevitable, but progress is optional”. I would add that change can be frightening but Show the Value of What You Do will benefit both individuals and groups in navigating the process.
Author Profile - Paul W. Smith - leader, educator, technologist, writer - has a lifelong interest in the countless ways that technology changes the course of our journey through life. In addition to being a regular contributor to NetworkDataPedia, he maintains the website Technology for the Journey and occasionally writes for Blogcritics. Paul has over 40 years of experience in research and advanced development for companies ranging from small startups to industry leaders. His other passion is teaching - he is a former Adjunct Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines. Paul holds a doctorate in Applied Mechanics from the California Institute of Technology, as well as Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara.