Defining Value in the Third Sector

Oct 17, 2015

Implementing a continuous improvement system in the third sector is a fascinating thing to do. It has many challenges to overcome to make it work but stay true to the principles of lean and you won’t go wrong. We know that if we follow the process and adhere to our principles they will carry us through.

The Five Lean Principles

  • Specify what creates value from the customers perspective
  • Identify all steps across the whole value stream
  • Make those actions that create value flow
  • Organise so that the customer can pull just-in-time
  • Strive for perfection by continually removing successive layers of waste

These principles are described in more depth in another blog on this forum so we are simply going to focus on the first one in this instance. Defining Value for a third sector organisation brings new challenges to the typical implementation.

Who is the customer

Is this the worthy cause that the team are working to support? Is it the volunteer base or the paid (if any) staff? In some cases it could be argued that the Trustees, Governors or even high value sponsors (e.g. Government) could be customers too.

The reality is that the organisation must work this out and evaluate where the value is provided. Like anywhere in lean implementation the value proposition is never as simple as providing Value just to the end customer.

Volunteers, for example, can have a very different Value proposition in the third sector. For some it could be about giving something back and for some it is a sense of pride, for many there must be is some sense of emotional reward. So the Value definition is not always one of measurable exchange – it is not a straightforward transaction like paying money for a product.

What is the Value

Well it could be defined as a combination of the Actual Value that delivers a real offering to the end user. This could be care provided or research paid for or animals rescued for example.

But there is also a really important element that is perceived valued. This is very real to the individual and must not be overlooked. That sense on achievement in running a marathon to raise money for example. For many is this sector there is a critical element of emotional reward that comes from working within. Ignore this at your peril when defining where the Value lies.

The good news is that there are some great techniques for evaluating who the customers are and how to see value from their perspective.