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Stephen Denning: There’s a Revolution in Value — It’s Austrian and It’s Agile

Tags The EntrepreneurEntrepreneurshipValue and Exchange

11/26/2019Hunter Hastings

Austrian economics emphasizes the delivery of value for consumers and customers. Only they can define value, because it’s their subjective experience that is valuable to them. Stephen Denning, author of The Age Of Agile, explains how entrepreneurs can exercise the "Agile" mindset, and offers insight into how Austrian principles inform the latest generation of business strategies for the digital age.

Key Takeaways and Actionable Insights

The revolution in value:

  • In the manufacturing economy, value was seen as making goods and selling goods.
  • In the service economy, value was seen as service delivered to, and co-created by, customers.
  • In the digital economy, all value is realized in the customer’s domain, and even they can’t imagine the value they’ll experience when they start using new digital technologies and methods.

In Austrian economics, the theories of customer sovereignty and value in experience that sit behind this value revolution are well established. Now, entrepreneurs are finding ways to implement these Austrian principles. They call the new world of value “Agile”.

According to Stephen Denning, the agile value revolution is a mindset, with three guiding principles.

  • Obsession with facilitating great customer outcomes.
  • Deliver the great customer outcomes at speed (work in small teams with short cycles)
  • Organize the firm as a network not a hierarchical bureaucracy.

Entrepreneurs can exercise this mindset in these ways:

Facilitate new value outcomes for customers.

  • Entrepreneurs don’t create value — value occurs in the customer’s domain based on their consumption, and their context.
  • Entrepreneurs can’t plan the value outcome — it’s emergent.
  • Even customers can’t imagine what value they’ll experience from a new service or new technology.
  • Therefore, entrepreneurs can facilitate value — make it possible — but only customers can realize value.

To facilitate value, fit into the customer’s life.

  • Responsiveness is not enough — you’ll always be behind the twists and turns of customers’ changing preferences and experience.
  • The art is to keep up with customers in real time as they change.
  • Practice customer anthropology — become part of their lives.

Time is value — use it well.

  • Customers prefer faster over slower.
  • Therefore, speed is value.
  • Use time as a strategic weapon: faster wins.

Eliminate all waste.

  • No value is created inside the firm.
  • Many internal activities are pure waste — reversing value outcomes (e.g. decreasing speed).
  • Estimates vary between 20%-50%+ of firm internal activities are waste.
  • Eliminate all the waste you can identify.
  • Export the savings to the customer.

Flexible, dynamic capital allocation.

  • Move resources and capital around quickly, to value-facilitating applications.
  • Be ruthless in eliminating non value-facilitating projects.

Design and operate your firm as a network.

  • A flotilla of speedboats outperforms a big machine.
  • Change processes from linear to networked — from lean to flow.
  • Change organization from hierarchy to network — no reporting lines.
  • Change leadership thinking — place leadership in the teams that are close to the customer

Additional Resource

"The Agile Value Revolution" (PDF): Mises.org/E4E_41_PDF

Author:

Hunter Hastings

Hunter Hastings is a member of the Mises Institute, Business Consultant, and co-chair of the Rescue California Educational Foundation. He is also host of the Economics for Entrepreneurs podcast.

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