Alien versus Predator:NCVO takes on Added Value

Last week I attended my first ever Performance Hub event at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations in London.  The event was jointly run by NCVO and the New Economics Foundation and played to a full house.

In essence the message was:

  1. the third sector doesn’t understand ‘added value’
  2. ‘added value’ is therefore a concept that is passed it ‘sell by’ date
  3. luckily we have developed a concept that can take its place – called ‘full value’
  4. even more luckily we have managed to reduce this to a 2×2 matrix that can be explained easily.

Now the origins of ‘added value’ are pretty old and extremely well respected.  Like any models or concepts they have their uses and their limitations – but this concept has done much to drive economic development, competitiveness and strategy over the last 3 decades.  Michael Porter, Harvard Professor and father of the ‘value chain’ has just celebrated 30 years of world leading consulting developing the competitiveness agenda using the concepts of value added, the value chain and the 5 forces model.

No doubt he will be devastated at the judgements passed down on his work by the NCVO.

While I admire the nerve of the Third Sector to challenge the business orthodoxy I can’t help but think that sometimes it shoots itself in the foot.  Surely if the idea is still good enough for the Institute for Strategy and Leadership at Harvard Business School we should not be too quick to dismiss it out of hand and replace it with a dinky 2×2 matrix?

Perhaps we just need to work a little harder to help our client group understand the concept and reflect on how it maybe used to add value to our work in making our communities better places to live and work.

My bet is that Michael Porters ideas might just outlive the neat little 2×2 that NCVO suggest should be used to replace it.  I will certainly be a little more circumspect before I hop on a train to London to receive the wisdom of NCVO.

Not that the day was bad!

I met some wonderful people.  We were all reminded of the importance of the unforeseen benefits of our work as well as the hard outcomes that we were paid to achieve.