Business Value, Soccer Canteens, Engineer Retention, and the Bricklayer Fallacy


Having the privilege of working in software in the 2020s, I hear variations on the following ideas expressed frequently:

  • ‘There must be some direct relationship between your work and customer value!’
  • ‘The results of your actions must be measurable!’

These ideas manifest in statements like this, which sound very sensible and plausible:

  • ‘This does not benefit the customer. This is not a feature to the customer. So we should not do it.’
  • ‘We are not in the business of doing X, so should not focus on it. We are in the business of serving the customer’
  • ‘This does not improve any of the key metrics we identified’

I want to challenge these ideas. In fact, I want to turn them on their head:

  • Many peoples’ work generate value by focussing on things that appear to have no measurable or apparently justifiable customer benefit.
  • Moreover, judgements on these matters are what…

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