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Management Value Added

The concept of Management Value Added (MVA) is based on a simple question that you should ask whenever you’re making a decision about how to invest your time and energy: “What value does management add?” And how can your actions “add value” to any situation in business? That’s right—by helping to meet your bosses’ needs.

One way to start using the concept of MVA is by sitting down with your boss to discuss his or her explicit needs (the ones written down as part of the company’s strategy or the division’s official mandate). It shouldn’t take long for the two of you to agree on what they are and to prioritize them appropriately. Then ask your boss, “How do you feel I can add the most value?” If your boss responds, “Huh?” you can flesh out the question with additional questions like these:

  • “What are the activities I am engaged in when I am contributing the most?”
  • “What are the activities that you and the company most need me to do?”
  • “What do you consider to be the best and most productive use of my time?”
  • “What do you think is the special contribution that I am best positioned to offer to you and the company?”
  • “Of all the things that I’m engaged in on behalf of this company, what are the three areas where you believe that I can contribute the most?”

Listen carefully to your boss’s answers. Using them as a guide, you can begin to understand exactly how your boss views your contributions. It’s quite likely that the way he or she measures your MVA is different from the way you might measure it.

Here’s what one of my bosses had to say when I asked him to define my most important areas for MVA:

  1. “Hiring, nurturing, and guiding talent; putting the right people in the right jobs with the right goals.”
  2. “Building capability; teaching my team members and creating an environment conducive to challenging thought and growth.”
  3. “Staying close to the customers—understanding what’s important to them, what their challenges are, and how our company can provide them with solutions.”

Of course, this exercise will relate only to your boss’s explicit needs. (Don’t try to engage him in a discussion of his implicit needs. There’s a good reason why they’re implicit.) Having these priorities clearly defined is an enormous step forward and an advantage that surprisingly few managers enjoy. It provides you with a framework you can share with others on your team and allows you to use the test of MVA in your quest to get past pot banging.

You can use MVA to help you determine how to spend your time, which projects to support, and which meetings to attend. In my case, before committing energy to any new activity, I ask myself: “Will this activity help me achieve my priorities? Will it help me put the right people in the right jobs? Will it help me build capability? Will it help me know and connect with our customers?” If the answer is no, I avoid the activity—even if it sounds otherwise interesting, appealing, or fun.

MVA helps you maintain a focus on the things that matter while earning the support of those you serve. When your boss or someone else in the organization asks you to commit time or energy to an area that falls outside of the MVA priorities you’ve established, you can talk about how new commitment may affect your main goals and reach a joint decision as to whether a shift in priorities is warranted.

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