What ? Why is Flow an anti-pattern ? Well it isn’t, unless you aren’t focused on it. When was the last time you heard someone actively talking about Flow ? When was the last time you found yourself using the word or talking about it ? My sense is that we have stopped talking about Flow and if we aren’t talking about it, then there is a good chance we aren’t focused on it. Which is weird because getting value to flow is the whole point of Agile.
What does it mean if you are actively focusing on flow ? What would it look like ? How would it be different ?
(1) MANUAL VISUAL RADIATORS
These days we are all about automation and Jira – why do we need a manual visual radiator ? Simply because you need to be able to see in 5 minutes how your work is flowing and I have yet to come across a tool that provides that view. You also need to be able to quickly adapt your view of the flow as you learn – which often requires a change request that takes weeks or months in a tool.
When you are focused on flow your visual radiator is everything. In 5 minutes it shows you how work is flowing, what the handovers are, what is blocked, where you have over-loading and much, much more. It also shows you trends – where does work block up, how much time do we waste. And lets not forget visualising flow efficiency.
Flow requires space. What do I mean by this – well we can’t create flow if your capacity is sitting at full – how could we ? To create flow requires capacity. When things get blocked we need to unblock them and this requires a person to stop what they are doing and sort it out. We tend to not have the time to unblock as we have no space.
(3) RELENTLESS FOCUS
The last is perhaps the most important. When you have a relentless focus on improving your flow then that is what you do – you are always looking to find ways to remove obstacles, permanently. You aren’t talking about burn down charts or how your ceremonies are going, you are talking about how to get work flowing and how to keep it flowing. It isn’t about the sprint or story points, it is about flow and nothing more. And when you get this focus everything else falls into place.
You start finishing work as opposed to starting it because work is blocked.
What would happen if you started to talk about and ask questions about flow ? What would you learn about how you deliver your work ? What possibilities might become visible ?