Meta Value

June 20, 2008

Insane Guy

Doug is the support manager at Ideal, and he is certifiably insane. He’s a nice guy, and he does his job fairly well as far as I can see, but he is a sucker. Like my former colleagues at Acme, Doug works way too hard for nothing in return. He is here for a little over 12 hours a day putting out our customers’ fires constantly.

I started wondering to myself about how I could reasonably expect to get options and move up the ladder at Ideal when Doug, who works more than I do, presumably will not get options or move up. The answer dawned on me as I knicked myself shaving.

Meta Value is a Coefficient

The answer is that Doug is banging his head on a brick wall. For over a year now he’s managed the support staff and he has made no progress in improving the system, which means he will continue to bang his head indefinitely. He adds value by putting in more time.

I add value differently. I strive to add “meta value” — value that creates and allows for the creation of more value. No matter how many calls Doug takes, he will never stop the tide of incoming calls, but if I can fight for the system that will make his department (and mine) more efficient in the way it works, the effort required to run the place will be reduced overall.

In Practice

If the support department normally creates 100 units of value, and I come along and reduce their load by 25% by developing a solid product, then I increase their productivity by 10% with a useful infrastructure, now I have 110 units of value (1.1*100), being used on 75% of the total work. I could also cut payroll costs by 67.5% since the new workload can be handled by 67.5% of the staff.

That’s why I’m going to be the CTO, and Doug is not. He doesn’t have the vision to add value and create improvements that will help everyone else add value. He may be able to do the work of one and a half people by working 12 hour days for the short term, but I can do the work of 30 people by making improvements to the company and the system, and that number will only grow as the company grows — right now my changes will help 100 people; all the better when they are helping 1,000!

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