Peter Dittman

Project Notes

Engineered Value

Posted on May 2nd, 2012
by PeterD in Project Notes

We all know projects undertaken to deliver something (new features, widgets or whatever) – the goal is almost invariably increased business value – to make our products or services more valuable to our customers. As a project manager, we facilitate that goal (plan, organize, lead, control).

But what is engineered value and why is it important?

At its origin, engineering is the application of the scientific method to achieve some specific outcome:

en·gi·neer·ing (nj-nîrng) n. 

1. a. The application of scientific and mathematical principles to practical ends such as the design, manufacture, and operation of efficient and economical structures, machines, processes, and systems.
b. The profession of or the work performed by an engineer.
2. Skillful maneuvering or direction: geopolitical engineering; social engineering.

In project terms, besides the project’s deliverables, we can also talk about social engineering – the en masse social change with some specific end. Sometimes only a side-effect of how we go about our day-to-day work, but in an actively-managed culture, we can also talk about deliberate consequences to the culture. In our software delivery ‘systems’ – that end is to reduce the delivery friction in our people, processes, and tools – to bring increased value to the corporation itself.

In an Agile ‘culture’, this is embodied in continuous improvement and the practice of retrospectives to inspect and adapt. Thus creating the feedback loop that is the spirit of the scientific method (or for the B-school types, the Deming cycle – plan, do, check, act).

Engineered value – improvement in our methods brought about by applying engineering principles to our software delivery systems.

Just as we engineer change in our products/services to achieve specific outcomes (increased market share/sales numbers, reduced costs, etc.), we can engineer change to our practices (what’s working, not working for us, can we run faster) to optimize our delivery of those products and services – resulting in faster time-to-market, higher productivity through increased collaboration, etc. Cultural change, social engineering.

Engineered value – where do you want to take your software delivery system and culture today?

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