What Problems Have You Seen With the Business Value Assignment Process?
The general literature calls for the Business Owner to go from team to team during a PI Planning event, and assign values in the range of 10 (high value) to 1 (low value) on all the team's PI Objectives on a relative scale.
Sounds easy, doesn't it? But there seems to be a lot of different approaches to assigning Business Value to PI Objectives, the process seems to cause a lot of confusion, not to mention misunderstanding, and it often leads to people abandoning the process all together. Some problems I have seen, based on a particular approach to generating the Business Value include:
- The Business Owners have some kind of an absolution scale in their head for business value. Perhaps the “things that support this strategic initiative that is near and dear to my heart automatically get a 10”. What this means is that the team that is doing that “strategic” work automatically gets a number of 10's whereas all the other teams get 1's. Does this mean the work of the other teams is seriously less important that that 1 team? No matter how hard you try to explain otherwise, those teams with the lessor scores are not going to be motivated.
- The Business Owners wonder how they will “compare” the work of the different teams. They often feel like they do not have sufficient context to determine whether PI Objective 3 of Team 1 is more valuable than PI Objective 2 of Team 2. Let's face it, while there is a lot of value information around, the PI Objectives are seen for the first time by the Business Owners at the PI Planning event. This leaves the Business Owner in a pretty poor place - they feel like they are making arbitrary (and often indefensible) judgements based on limited information in front of a whole room of people. Is it any wonder that people question the basis and value of the Business Value?
- Whether because of the arbitrary nature of the process, or because of an approach where the Business Owner has an absolute scale in their heads, you will often see Business Values for a team become pretty undifferentiated - all 10's, or all 1's, or, because “I don't really know” all 5's. None of this adds value to the joint understanding of the work.
- The Business Owners confuse Business Value with WSJF prioritization. This process is not trying to recreate the prioritization of work. The way to think about this is to assume you will get all the PI Objectives (after all, they are all committed). Then ask yourself “which PI Objective gives me the most value”. As one person said “We have a whole bunch of cute puppies running around. We need to drown some of them.” — ok not a pretty picture but you get the idea.