Simple Questions Can Help You Find Value

When a child asks “why?” or “how come?” for hours on end it can be maddening for adults, but in the context of Value Methodology, it is precisely these questions that bring success.

By breaking down a project or a process into its most basic functions and questioning the need of each one, you can start to determine what can be improved or eliminated.

An example that VMS’ CEO/President, Rob Stewart, likes to use is a paper coffee cup.

What is the function of a paper coffee cup?

The answer seems straight forward and even intuitive because we all know the purpose is to hold coffee. But here is why it is critical to question. Is the function to hold coffee? Or any liquid? Perhaps a different way to think of the function is to “contain liquid.”  The key is defining the function in a way that is non-specific.  This nuance shifts the mind away from fixating on the current approach (“what it is”) and redefines it in terms of the function it is trying to perform (“what it does.”) Consider the phrase “hold coffee” and compare that to “contain liquid.”  The former conjures up images of coffee cups, coffee mugs, and the like.  In contrast, the phrase “contain liquid” reframes the problem and creates a disassociation between the object and the function.  This, in turn, opens the mind to a much broader set of possibilities. 

This way of thinking in function seems very simple and straightforward, however, it is surprisingly challenging for people to apply it as we are all conditioned to be object-oriented thinkers.  Thinking abstractly is not something we are familiar with because our culture places great emphasis on having the “right answer.”  Function-based thinking is scary because it creates ambiguity – the possibility of other answers, and especially ones that may be better than the current ones.

By simply taking the time to stop and ask the basic questions “what does it do?” and “why does it do it?” and then applying function-driven rather than object-oriented thinking, value opportunities present themselves.