Redesign work to Create Value


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Work is value!

Value, Not Work should be our motto.

In its article, ‘In pursuit of value—not work,’ McKinsey asked, how valuable is your work. They later defined value as being commercial market value. They state work creates market value.

Unfortunately, the article misses what value is all about, how true value is very important, not just market value. They lose track of the definition of work. True value increases market value.

Work cannot be measured as output alone. it is more than that. It has to be measured as the impact and the real value which is benefits the receiver sees versus the costs (which includes price and non-price). The benefits the receiver sees is not just monetary.

You may design work to educate your employees. Then the immediate cash inflow from this training is nil and there is a net outflow and so by Mckinsey’s definition it is not valuable work.

What if you do things a particular way and down the line you realise it is the wrong way of doing things and you have to redesign your effort. According to the definition of Mckinsey it is useless or wasted value. What you learnt might have given you superior knowledge and a leg up over competition, but that has no value according to the article. It may, on the contrary be extremely valuable.

Or if you set out to deliberately mislead competition by doing work that may make them follow your lead, or may make them think you are not a competitor. I worked for a company developing acrylonitrile beverage bottles (the only company in the business was Monsanto). Our company started work on PET secretly but publicly remained in acrylonitrile work. This caused others to take acrylonitrile seriously, an approach we were abandoning.

We define creating value as:

Creating Value is executing normal, conscious, inspired, and even imaginative actions that increase the overall good and well-being, and the worth of and for ideas, goods, services, people or institutions including society, and all stakeholders (like employees, customers, partners, shareholders and society), and value waiting to happen.

So according to this definition, we increased the overall good for our company and therefore created value.

Of course, each company must rethink work, abandoning routine tasks to machines and re utilising people for greater value creating work. Much has to do with creating more value for customers, employees and other stakeholders. This implies we look at hitherto supposed cost centres such as sustainability and convert them to create value for the company and therefore profit centres. Remember, it is creating value we are after not just monetary profit. This implies doing necessary and relevant work on sustainability that our customers and stakeholders such as governments can relate to and give us brownie points or create value for us instead.

Here is a definition of such work:

Necessary work is essential for, vital to, indispensable to, important to, crucial to, needed by, compulsory required by or requisite for the Customer or stakeholder

Relevant work is pertinent to, applicable or germane to, or appropriate to the

Customer or stakeholder. This is work that can be eliminated without material deterioration of present service or product

What work is the Customer/stakeholder willing to pay for or considers creates value for him/her? That would be termed as Necessary and Relevant.

The mindset of workers and executives must go beyond just performing their jobs to consciously creating value. This is one valuable way of improving work.

Mckinsey in an article “Defining the skills citizens will need in the future world of work” has said, and I quote:

  • add value beyond what can be done by automated systems and intelligent machines
  • operate in a digital environment
  • continually adapt to new ways of working and new occupations

While I agree these are necessary, I feel Mckinsey has defined the skills too narrowly in terms of the future of work and life. First and foremost, the skill needed is not just adding value, but creating value to be able to manage and address the future of ourselves, our lives, our way of life (or what is left of it in the changing environment) our work, to think of rewards and risks of AI.

  • We need to teach executives and workers the meaning of value and how they can add value to their work, their workplace and themselves
  • Workers and executives must create value consciously, and understand that performance is not enough

Leaders must

  • ensure values and human values are incorporated; establish controls and checks for human intervention and override and supervision
  • Make their executives understand that value is created not only by their direct tasks, but by their ideas, their thought process to create value in seemingly unconnected subjects like the environment or thinking about the product complaints and reaching zero complaints. Create value and ensure that the environment is managed and designed for the betterment of life, and not just for efficiency and for giving up our control because AI can do it better
  • Be continually adaptive to create continuing value
  • Become multi-disciplinary and multi-aware

These might sound trite, but the lure of technology is to do more with less, and that seems to be what technologists endeavour becoming eventually the human thought process is lost. We cannot allow this.

Ejaz Ghani thinking of India is 2030 says there will be a rise of the middle class and there will be a demographic dividend; India will be part of the global talent race; an urban awakening; India will be close to the largest digital economy; with a changing face of globalisation. There will be green growth and gender will be a growth driver. The problem is managing the transition.

So, we need to re-skill and re-teach to manage the future and do so by creating value. Digital democratisation will make people more equal

You must have the right mindset. Creating value is a mindset that can set you ahead and design smartly. Cross disciplinary thinking becomes imperative. Now you are on the path to create valuable work, and to think work is value, and make work valuable. 

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Gautam Mahajan
Gautam Mahajan, President of Customer Value Foundation is the leading global leader in Customer Value Management. Mr Mahajan worked for a Fortune 50 company in the USA for 17 years and had hand-on experience in consulting, training of leaders, professionals, managers and CEOs from numerous MNCs and local conglomerates like Tata, Birla and Godrej groups. He is also the author of widely acclaimed books "Customer Value Investment: Formula for Sustained Business Success" and "Total Customer Value Management: Transforming Business Thinking." He is Founder Editor of the Journal of Creating Value ( and runs the global conference on Creating Value (


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