Scott R. Coplan

Gotta Have It Now!

The Problem

I sat under an awning in a plastic chair on the patio of my insurance agent’s house. Six other people sat around me waiting to speak with the agent. Everyone waited quietly in line. No one used their cell phone.
One customer sat in a chair in front of an open window of the house. My insurance agent sat at her desk inside the house, facing her customer through the open window. The customer, working with the agent, finished, got up from his chair, and walked away. The next customer, nearest the now-empty chair, got up from their chair and sat in front of the agent. Everyone else got up and then sat in the next chair in line. After an hour, I met with the agent and resolved my duplicate insurance payment.

This is a typical way people do business in Costa Rica, a third world country. You go to the electric company, phone company, water utility and so on instead of online. Few websites allow you to complete business transactions and even fewer function properly. People can’t afford computers or telephone data plans that allow access to such websites. Customer service agents at these businesses work quickly and competently. Work gets done and customers leave satisfied.

Back in the United States, a first world country, I’m always in a hurry. I fight technology to get work done. My password manager fails to update, so I can’t access the new password I thought I stored for my insurance company account. I now get a message that says, “Your recent activity was marked as suspicious by our Security and Risk Monitoring System. The functionality of the account has been automatically suspended.” I try, in vain, to locate a customer service telephone number. I find one for technical support only and I must battle an interactive voice response system to speak to a human being instead of a clueless bot. Once I reach the technical support agent, they read an annoying script instead of listening to me genuinely and fixing my problem. Finally, the agent solves my problem.

But wait, there’s more. I hang up the phone with technical support and try to access my account. It doesn’t appear that the two-factor authentication email will ever arrive. It finally does, but now I have to complete a CAPTCHA test so the insurance company can tell me apart from a computer trying to break into my account. I fail the test twice before I finally gain access. It took an hour to resolve the duplicate payment for an insurance bill.

People ask me if it’s better living in Costa Rica when compared to the United States. I explain it’s different, not necessarily better or worse. The calm way of doing business in Costa Rica is far less frustrating and probably takes the same amount of time as the gotta have it now digital world fostered by the United States.
Everywhere I look, the news is about digital transformation driven by innovation. Wait a minute! Innovation is sloppy, given my all-to-frequent experience. When I look up the definition, innovation is about providing something new. What about delivering value? I believe we should deliver value.

The Solution

Value creation must be the clear mandate driving an organization’s primary business, not innovation. At the very least, an organization must prioritize innovative project investments based on value. There’s no accountability if you don’t measure value because no one knows if they’ve improved anything.
So, how does an organization determine the value of projects in order to maximize the assignment of their limited resources? Borrowing from Agile, an organization can use a gamified method called Planning Poker.
Planning Poker is a game that includes a facilitator, a self-organizing team that will do the work, a special card deck for each team member, a timer, and a list of projects, features, or ideas for the team to prioritize. A self-organizing team doesn’t depend on a manager to assign work. The team finds its own work and manages the associated responsibilities and schedules.
Every card in the deck has a number from the Fibonacci sequence, a series where each number is the sum of the two preceding numbers. Agile uses Fibonacci numbers mostly because they’re far apart and imprecise enough to show differences and uncertainty naturally found in estimating.
During the game, each team member assigns a unit of value to, for example a project, to prioritize it relative to other projects under consideration. Each unit of value is the total amount of usefulness and importance assigned to an item relative to other items, e.g., four units of value assigned to a project means its twice the value of a project given a two.
Planning Poker starts with the facilitator summarizing an item under consideration for prioritization, like a project. The Team members ask the facilitator questions, followed by the facilitator summarizing and concluding the discussion. Each team member then assigns their estimate of units of value, placing their card face down in front of them. This avoids affecting the estimates of all other teammates. Everyone announces their estimate, simultaneously turning their card over. Team members with the highest and lowest numbers then justify their estimates. The game resumes until the team arrives at consensus, total agreement on a unit of value assigned. At any time during the game, the facilitator may interrupt the discussion and resume another estimating round.
Agile then uses the team to divide the work into short periods, typically two weeks. The team makes sure they’re sustaining product value, by reviewing their work with the customer. This includes welcoming and adapting to inevitable uncertainty and change found everywhere and everything we do.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather sit and wait quietly and then get a problem solved with my insurance agent rather than battle with innovation that produces no value.


Planning Poker – Wikipedia,” accessed July 12, 2022,

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