Accelerating the Flow of Value with SAFe

Agile is such a critical, desirable, elusive, and yet intangible state.

Perhaps it’s more productive to focus on delivering a continuous flow of value than debate the question of whether “I, and my team, are Agile or not?”

“To enable fast and predictable lead times in any value stream, there is usually a relentless focus on creating a smooth and even flow of work.”
—Gene Kim et al., The DevOps Handbook

Eight properties of a flow-based system

  • Work-in-Process (WIP)
  • Bottleneck
  • Hand-off
  • Feedback
  • Batch
  • Queue
  • Worker
  • Policies
Flow keystone
visualize and limit WIP

#1 Visualize and Limit WIP

Think about:

  • Are you visualizing the WIP you need to visualize?
  • How do you react to it?
  • How is this different at different levels?
  • Where is it most critical?

#2 Address Bottlenecks

Bottlenecks occur wherever demand is greater than capacity. Bottlenecks cause the system to operate below its potential capacity.

2 Address Bottlenecks

Think about:

  • Do you know where the bottlenecks are?
  • Do you know how to find them?
  • Do you know what to do about them when you do?

#3 Minimize Handoffs and Dependencies

We all know excessive handoffs cause waste, delays, and rework, slooowww value delivery, and lost opportunities.

Think about:

  • Have you applied team topologies yet?
  • Do you think “T Skills” every time you see this?
  • Is it time to restructure your Teams, ARTs, or Value Streams?
minimize handoffs
get faster feedback

#4 Get Faster Feedback

We need both technical and customer feedback and we need it earlier, and more often than we think.

Think about:

  • How do you get this feedback now?
  • Is it early enough?

#5 Work in Smaller Batches

If you want to:

    • Get faster feedback
    • Reduce the load on bottlenecks
    • Reduce variability
    • Reduce overhead
    • Increase efficiency
    • Increase motivation and urgency
    • Reduce schedule cost and growth

Then work in smaller batches!

"Batch size reduction saves much more than you think."

—Don Reinertsen
The Principles of Product Development Flow

reduce queue

#6 Reduce Queue Length

The longer the queue, the longer the wait for cool new stuff, regardless of the team’s size or efficiency.

Think about:

  • Can you see the queues?
  • How do you control queue length?
do your people work

#7 Optimize Time "In the Zone"

People in the zone demonstrate higher creativity, productivity, happiness, and fulfillment.

Think about:

  • What can you do to better optimize time in the zone for knowledge workers?

“Being ‘in the zone’ is an engaged mental state of extreme focus. The work feels effortless and time passes quickly.”

—Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Flow, The Psychology of Optimal Experience

#8 Remediate Legacy Policies and Practices

Enterprises are often replete with legacy policies and practices that inhibit flow.

Look at the maze on the right.

  • Do you recognize any?
  • Do you have others?
  • What can you do to remediate?

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