Row Your Boat

It’s simply the nature of human nature to complicate; that is, give us something simple and we’ll create an unnavigable labyrinth of complexity.

Case in point: This is the definition of value stream found on Wikipedia:

A value stream is the set of actions that take place to add value to a customer from the initial request through realization of value by the customer … Value streams are artifacts within business architecture that allow a business to specify the value proposition derived by an external (e.g., customer) or internal stakeholder from an organization. A value stream depicts the stakeholders initiating and involved in the value stream, the stages that create specific value items, and the value proposition derived from the value stream. The value stream is depicted as an end-to-end collection of value-adding activities that create an overall result for a customer, stakeholder, or end-user … Value streams are a component of the business ecosystem that describe how a stakeholder – often a customer – receives value from an organization.

To summarize, a value stream is a set of actions. No, wait. It’s an artifact. Hang on. It’s a depiction. Ooh, maybe not. It’s a collection of value-adding activities. Oops. That’s not quite right yet. Ah, now I see. It’s a component of an ecosystem.

Got that? Neither do I.


I know this is the kind of thinking that gets me in trouble. But what if we simplified by taking this approach:

  • Determine what the customer wants.
  • If it works, do it again.
  • If it doesn’t work, do something else until it works.

For an illustration of this concept, please see Figure A below.

Figure A

Is that ridiculous? It depends. How much have you complicated your value stream? Why? Was the complication necessary? For what reason? Was it effective? If not, why not? Would it benefit from simplification? Would you benefit from its simplification? Would your customers benefit from its simplification? I don’t know if asking and answering those questions would help. But I do know it couldn’t hurt.

Or maybe we should just sing the old children’s song to remind ourselves how simple it should be:

Row, row, row your boat
Down the value stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily,
Things are what they seem.

Common Sense

If you’re anything like me, you’ve noticed common sense is becoming increasingly uncommon. It’s partly a matter of hyperinformationalism. It’s partly a matter of our growing affinity for jargon. And it’s partly a matter of our wanting to sound important and smart.

But please remember this: If you give your customers what they want as simply as possible, they won’t care how important you think you are or how smart you think you have to sound.

Success can be simple, too.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *