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From an agile perspective, value creation has nothing to do with money

From an agile perspective, value creation has nothing to do with money

This is a big one, it has completely transformed my approach to work as well as what I focus on. From an agile perspective, value is generally not related to monetary value.

The agile manifesto

The opening paragraph of the 12 principles behind the Agile Manifesto states:

"Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software." - Agile Manifesto

Interestingly it does not explicitly state something like a "profitable solution" a "market advantage" or "USP" or any of the other business blurb, which is unfortunately still in heavy use. Value, in the roots of the agile context, can roughly be defined as: something which can perform a function which is useful or helps to make ones life easier.

20 Years later...

Although the agile manifesto was written in 2001, even by todays standards, this is a big departure from the profit driven mindset we sadly live in and one that has the potential to transform our society. Diving into the agile mindset and working by its principles, has made me realize that value as defined above, is a much better and more rewarding measure of success than money could ever be.

It seems pretty straightforward, that if I can help create something which is useful for others, I am contributing to society's progression. The opposite in my mind, is focussing on a purely monetary driving force, such as profit. This is a hollow and dangerous motivating force, which can easily result in profitable but destructive business models and related human behavior, such as:

  • Casinos and gambling
  • The derivatives markets and high frequency trading
  • The manufacturing of over-motorized cars and their perception as a status symbol
  • The luxury industry and the belief that these items can provide some sense of lasting fulfillment
  • .... the list goes on

WhatsApp's value creation

A good counter example, was the meteoric rise of WhatsApp. I remember clearly, I was working on Mallorca as a realtor in 2010 and one of my young Spanish colleagues showed me this "great new app" and it's associated.... Emojis.

WhatsApp managed to create a revolutionary communication experience that has had a deep impact on our society as a whole. (Wether or not chat messaging is preferable to direct communication is an almost philosophical discussion, that I'll steer clear of at this time.)

With only 55 employees and a well executed idea, WhatsApp managed to create a company which had half a billion daily active users at the beginning of 2019. The US $ 19-billion acquisition in 2014 was surely profitable, but this was a result of the value their solution offered, not their plan to "make it big".

Starting the day from an agile value perspective

When I look at my Kanban board and inbox in the morning and see the options available, I ask myself: "Which of these tasks is most likely to deliver the highest possible value for my clients and my company?" Once I have identified it, that's what I start to work on. This means that my commitment to these tasks is much higher, than if I were to be solely 'working for a paycheck'.

Realizing that your work can have a positive impact on the lives of others and letting this be the driving force behind your actions, is a great entry point to Purpose Design at work. By WhatsApp's example: create things of true value and everything else will follow from that.

"The alchemists in their search for gold discovered many other things of greater value." - Arthur Schopenhauer

Value Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash


Erik Heirman

Erik Heirman

I believe technology should be at the service of society. I trust in agile methodology & principles, client centric innovation and design thinking.

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