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The

Philosophy

of

Continuous Innovation

· FLOW

How bringing FLOW to your organisation brings the agile culture you need

Flow is a new way of looking at work. it is a step on from Agile and Lean Innovation. Its principle methods include:

  1. Large scale visualisation of all objectives, units of work and work-in-progress
  2. Reducing cycle time (the time it takes to complete a unit of work) to 2 days
  3. Encouraging significantly more social interaction.
  4. Co-creating the processes that get work done.

In a future post we will explain in detail why these elements are important. But in this post we want to concentrate on the philosophy and culture of FLOW.

The benefits of FLOW

Flow is an end-to-end system for working better, creating highly innovative culture where decisions about value creation can be taken closer to the point of delivery.  Flow has numerous benefits, among them:

Ultra-short cycle times for project completion

More dynamic and accurate collaborative planning

More value, less waste

Startup-style pivot ability

Better integration of customer needs

Improved market segmentation

Process innovation at pace

Peer accountability

The general philosophy of FLOW

FLOW philosophy is that all work should be more social interactive, less structured and less command-driven.

By breaking work up into smaller units than is normal we can encourage people to interact more - no more hiding in the cubicle for weeks on end and no more taking projects off into report-land. All work is visual and out there, up for discussion.

We aim to break work down so that it can be completed within a couple of days, so that people can bring work back to the discussion venues. Those venues are usually wall visualisations where work units are on public display.

There are many reasons for being visual and for working in shorter bursts:

1. Smaller work units not only foster more interaction, they also make it less likely that teams will go away and bring back outputs that are incompatible with the work of other teams or make it less likely that they will have strayed away from the objectives of the team or business division.

2. More interaction makes it possible for people to co-design the best way to meet business goals. Most people these days need to do some multidisciplinary work, and an important aspect of this is for IT and the business to work closely together. All disciplines can feel more confident that work is meeting their goals if they can see it regularly.

3. Teams can function in a multidisciplinary environment is they are able to observe work - without observable work it is impossible, say, for IT to pivot where necessary, because IT will need to take the business along on that pivot.Two to three week cycles times inhibit interdisciplinary decision making.

4. More interaction allows new tools, techniques and work-arounds to come to the surface and inform solution design.

5. Shorter cycle times make budgeting much more intuitive. A work unit is 2 days of a developer's time so a hundred units of work is equal to 200 work days. Because all work is visible, budgeting is there on the wall, at a glance.

6. Visible work makes it possible to see dependencies and risks over time. No longer do you need a genius who can go away and anticipate all dependencies and all risk factors. People can add them in as they see them, as the work is broken down.

7. That also makes it easier to overcome work allocation problems. If someone is off sic, the gap can be plugged if the dependency and risk is high, or it can be left until that person is back.

 

8. Many hands make light work - especially of difficult creative tasks. No single brain can manage work planning in complex environments where innovation is continuous.The group has to shape the knowledge flow that makes good work possible. FLOW is all about collective intelligence.

 

9. The process of work breakdown is, by its nature, a group task. While there are people who naturally want to lead work break down, it needs good domain expertise to shape it properly; it needs business to specify goals; and it needs interaction to keep goals relevant.

 

10. The value of work is more easily visible of the work unit is small. Either it adds value to a package of features that are being pushed to customers or it doesn't and it is dropped.

 

11. Time to feedback is shortened too. That means teams can develop prototype features and compile these into what we call as minimum sustainable delivery package that can go live to customer groups for A/B testing and other feedback mechanisms.

 

12. Small work units make it possible to pivot at short notice. No-one gets over invested in any particular piece of work. if it doesn't add value to customer experiences, it's dropped and the cost of testing an idea is low.

 

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