Flow as an Operating Model can transform how you work

Flow
Flow

You may have noticed that we, at the Flow Academy, have been writing about some of our techniques, such as Lighthouse Thinking and the Transformation Sprint.

What we have also been doing is using our Flow Value Discovery tools to test and learn what resonates the most amongst our network and within the agile community in general.

And we are glad to report that the feedback has been excellent!

So, how does all of this relate to Flow? For those of you who have been following us for a while, you’ll know that Flow is an end-to-end thought process, beginning with how value is discovered through customer insight to how value is actually delivered. Then in between, it focuses on how value is managed. All this adds up to an agile business opportunity for clients, especially when you combine it with our new thinking on generative operating models. 

Here are some of the key tools which we use.

Transformation Sprint

We use the Transformation Sprint when we work with a new client in order to help them fix or start a new transformation. But in the spirit of Flow, we have decided to share our method in our forthcoming book on the subject. Because we believe that it’s now essential, in a COVID disrupted world, that organisations have a new way to remodel their approach to markets, grow their businesses and provide meaningful work for everyone.   

Lighthouse Thinking

It has always been our mantra that in order to solve a complex challenge you must simplify it by breaking it down into manageable units of work. Be that software development batch sizes in Value Delivery or launching a new project to test and learn during Value Discovery. In fact, a Lighthouse Project is such a simple concept that it flies in the face of the complexity theorists. We believe in simplification! And we have been developing a lot of material in this area which we hope to publish before the end of the year.

Operating Models

An operating model in itself doesn’t seem very exciting and perhaps that’s because it sounds like a topic from an MBA that you have to study, rather than one you would want to.

We think the lack of interest in operating models arises because there has been relatively little progress over the years in defining the operating model of modern businesses, which is strange because, in order to transform, you need to know what your current model is and the future model you want to arrive at. 

Go back to the 1990s though, before the big boom in business models and innovation literature, and companies were primarily concerned with the Operating Model, with good reason.

Flow Is An Operating Model

When we published our first book “Flow” in 2017 and it had been 5 years in the making but it’s just as relevant today as it has ever been. What we have done since is to evolve the tools and our understanding of Flow as an Operating Model.

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Flow incorporates agile software development methods, continuous delivery, DevOps and cloud (which we call Value Delivery) but we also realised that every company is at a different stage in their operating model evolution, especially in terms of core capabilities, so a one size fits all context doesn’t make sense.

Flow also includes Value Discovery and Value Management tools that we wrote about in our first book which allow you to build new products/services, find new customers, expand your ecosystem and get the very best value out of your portfolio of work.

We tend to favour kanban as a working practice for Flow because it’s much more about the conversation than the actual technique of coding or marketing. But sometimes, the terminology used by IT teams can create a disconnect with Business teams. That’s why when we created the Executive Portfolio Wall, we kept jargon to a minimum and focused on creating a venue for a conversation with the leadership team. 

Awakening the leaders to the challenges of core platforms, core capabilities, learning mechanisms and cyber agility puts into context the effort required to transform. These are all conversations that we can stimulate at the Wall.

And balancing your strategic, tactical and maintenance work, gives an organisation the tools to prioritise transformation and operating model regeneration without overloading the business. That’s why we called it Value Management.

The Transformation Sprint has the critical role of keeping people focused and making rapid progress towards solving big transformational problems in just four weeks.  

The key is to all this is to make sure that conversations are happening, social interaction between teams is given priority and that the older techniques for managing work are deprecated. You see, transformation is much more about changing the way you work than it is about changing the technology.

Entrepreneurs focus on the “Who not How”

Our initial focus for Flow was and still is to some degree IT but we used to bang on a lot about kanban, automation and cloud etc and whilst these things are all important topics, as we previously mentioned, your context and where you are in the journey is just as important.

There are many CIO’s and CTO’s out there who baulk at the idea of having to swap out their current agile methods or frameworks. And who are we to be prescriptive when we talk about creativity, innovation and regeneration!

In fact, it makes more sense to improve what’s in place and regenerate step by step. Eventually, everyone will want to use Flow end-to-end but right now it’s about continuous improvement.

Plus, we believe that no one person or organisation should ever dictate all the components of Flow.

So, we reached out to Dr Mik Kersten to learn more about what he is doing with the Flow Framework for Value Stream Management because it’s super popular amongst our Clients and also Daniel Vacanti because we love his work around Flow Metrics and his ActionableAgile analytics tool which the agile community can’t get enough of.

Then there are also some great people working in the Flow agile data and probabilistic forecasting space such as Troy Magennis who has real solutions to improve outcomes. Plus others delivering some really snazzy online collaboration tools and virtual Executive Portfolios Walls, like Holger Gelhausen.

And everyone knows that we love DevOps and it’s been a pleasure to work with Gene Kim and his community.

The list goes on.

However, our specialism has evolved more upstream within businesses thanks to the Transformation Sprint, Lighthouse Thinking and Value Discovery and we collaborate or use the tools and methods from others wherever it makes sense.

But most of all, we celebrate all those who are working to make Flow even better.

Magpie’s don’t steal shiny objects

European folklore says that the Magpie bird steals shiny objects. But in fact, they don’t. It is a myth because they are nervous about such items. 

However, there are people in the world trying to monopolise Flow, including some very big well-known organisations. 

Which is a real shame because most of us in this space just want some recognition for our years of practical work as employees or entrepreneurs.

We believe that there is a lot of room within the Flow Operating Model for people to work together and not to get dragged into the kind of turf wars that we are seeing in the scrum space. In fact, “Scrum” has reached the courts! Can you believe it?

In Flow, we have pioneered the idea of flexible tools that let people interact in intelligent ways. We don’t have a rule book or a playbook for the end-to-end flow of value. We’ve always said, good social interaction leads to good decisions at work. And we are all for good social interaction and against rigidity. Flow is a naturally agile way to work.

A rigid methodology ages over time and becomes less relevant. Some ‘new’ variants of Flow have that feel of rigidity. But our vision continues to be that there is space for all types of tools, frameworks and ways of working in Flow.

The one thing that we have always talked about is the human side of Flow and giving people the space to interact and use their collective intelligence. So, we have some exciting news coming up very soon about a free service and it’s called The Agile Business Community (theagilebusiness.com) where we are going to donate/open-source all of our content and hope that you will join us to contribute some of your own ideas too – even if that means asking more questions of us!

More news soon!

Fin & Haydn – the Flow Academy

Fin Goulding is a CTO/CIO who in the past five years has transformed into a business agility expert having worked for organisations like Visa, RBS, HSBC and digital startups such as lastminute.com and paddypower.com. Fin also coaches executives through the challenges of transformation.

Haydn Shaughnessy is a business economist and innovation expert who has consulted to some of the world’s leading organisations helping senior executives to plan the next-generation enterprise.

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