Improve operational efficiency with value calculators

One of the most powerful tools to help people understand the value of changing the way they build and deploy systems is to quantify the benefits of making the change. While the mathematics of quantification can be intimidating for many, we routinely use calculators for many economic decisions in our lives: buying a car or a house, or sending a child to college, for example. Why not create calculators to estimate the economic benefit of working in new ways? Why not quantify the effect of a “bad system” in which people work?

The cost of uncontrolled multitasking

The burden of too much work juggling manifests itself in an uncontrolled change of context and ineffective participation in meetings. In Agile jargon, this is called work in progress (WIP). The impact on the efficiency and morale of our workforce should be viewed with a concern that includes human-centered culture rather than “just as it is” culture. The impact also extends far beyond individuals and into the economy of creating value for the organization. My experience in large engineering companies, military defense contractors, and medical device suppliers – even pressure cooker startups – indicates a pervasive tolerance and reinforces this economic burden on value creation.

We know that uncontrolled multitasking is expensive. Expressing impact in the language of dollars is the most effective way to motivate change.

My simplest value calculator quantifies the cost of context switching based on research and a few key metrics. Here is a screenshot, showing the use of the following parameters:

  • Uninterrupted flow time = 2 hours
  • Rise time depending on the context = 25 minutes
  • Productive days planned in a week = 5
  • Productive weeks planned in a year = 48
  • Number of people on a project = 200

It is my most used and referenced calculator because of its simplicity and decisive impact.

The use of this calculator is anonymous and free:

For more details, including remediation techniques, see this article:

The value of early identification of addictions

Throughout my career as a software developer, I have seen one version of the following chart, illustrating the increasing scale of efforts to correct a defect found later in life cycle:

The behavior that resulted from presenting this data, when using a waterfall process, was that more time was invested in detailing, reviewing and approving artifacts in all phases before system delivery. The cascading effect was an early commitment to solutions without the benefit of rapid feedback learning cycles. Therefore, the cost of default (creating the bad thing) has been replaced by the cost of creating the bad thing.

An Agile approach, with smaller pieces of Plan-Do-Check-Adjust (PDCA), helps reduce defects, but only in the context of the scope for which a team is responsible. Late testing of dependencies within Agile teams often results in what I call “late integration failures,” with the same exponential increase in system delivery costs that we found in a waterfall process.

The Early Addiction Identification Calculator correlates the identification of dependencies between teams with the identification and remediation of flaws, thereby quantifying the value of early discovery of addictions and treating them as first-class citizens of the process. That is, we test dependencies with each Plan-Do-Check-Adjust cycle at the team team level.

The advantage of using the calculator is not only that you can choose the parameter values ​​that are most representative of your context, but also that you can experiment with different combinations of values ​​to see the relative impact of the alternative scenarios.

Try this calculator:

The consultant-calculator for the allocation of specialized skills

As we seek to organize around value to streamline the delivery of a product to customers, we grapple with a key question: How should you organize teams to get the most out of a particular skill? Competence is made up of skills, knowledge and abilities. Should we create a team of people with this skill and leverage them as a shared service with other teams? Should we assign one or more team members with this skill to each team? Should we ask people with this skill to create a service that will be used by other teams?

I’ve created a calculator that will tap into your organization’s metrics to provide information and advice on which team structure might work best for you. My experience in consulting to organizations is put to good use in creating the calculator with a description and related examples.

Team structure options

Here are the three options the calculator will look at based on your settings:

  1. Designated Team Members: A person with the competence is assigned as a team member to each cross-functional Agile team that needs the competence within the defined organization.
  2. Complicated Subsystem Team: People with the skill are all part of one team. This team provides support to any team, program or Agile Release Train that needs this skill to implement and deliver their solution or part of a solution. This includes the model of a shared services team.
  3. Competence as a service: The skills most often needed and how to apply them are provided in a well-defined interface with effective user guidance. The calculator allows parameters to be entered to support an enabling team that may be required to educate and assist users of this skill as a service.
Flow calculator

This article will not describe all the details of the calculator, as it is five pages long. The flow of work through the calculator is as follows:

  • Page 1 collects information about the skill offering.
  • Page 2 collects information about the demand for the skill.
  • Page 3 assesses the suitability of the Designated Team Member model and provides recommendations.
  • Page 4 assesses suitability for the complicated subsystem model and provides recommendations.
  • Page 5 assesses fit with the competence as a service model and provides recommendations.

Much of this work is influenced by “Team Topologies: Organizing Business and Technology Teams for Fast Flow” by Matthew Skelton and Manual Pais. Applying team topologies to team teams is also explained in this article:

The online calculator is free to use at This page also provides a link to view the detailed description with examples.

The value of value calculators

Unlike talking hypothetically and abstractly about value in the way we build systems, value calculators, as pictured here, provide the following value to an organization:

  1. Support a detailed understanding of the economic drivers in how the organization builds systems
  2. Provide a quantifiable way to use parameters specific to your organization or context
  3. Produce data that obliges to improve the system that builds systems

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