When we’re talking about flow engineering in software development, it’s referring to collective flow. The idea of flow across an entire organization means involving all the activities and everything that needs to happen from the inception of an idea, all the way from a customer request to production and seeing the customer using the results of your efforts.
In addition to organizational flow, it’s also important for developers to think about individual flow. The state of flow is the perfect marriage of challenge and skill; where you feel like you’re “in the zone.”
Collective Flow Engineering
With that being said, it’s important to recognize that it’s extremely difficult to reach this state without collective flow, which can be hard to achieve if you’re working in silos, something teams are facing more and more in this new remote work environment.
Consequently, developers are collaborating more across teams in different time zones, departments, divisions, and potentially even companies. This makes collective flow engineering even more important in combating the modern challenges of collaboration.
Boost Velocity, Quality, & Developer Happiness
Large organizations today have ambitious goals of transforming their business,attacking new markets, and releasing new products and experiences for their customers. While these are all worthy endeavors, they often cause gigantic backlogs of tasks that need to get done.
So how can we make those initiatives actually come to fruition and deliver on those outcomes? How can we move fast enough to achieve better results?
It’s important to do this the right way to avoid developer burnout and achieve sustainable results of high performance. You don’t want to go fast at the expense of sacrificing quality. Collaborative flow is often hindered by a lack of clarity behind what needs to get done.
Clarity is also lacking for developers and teams on how they get to the next level to improve performance and outcomes. This can be really hard in collaborative environments because multiple people means multiple perspectives and experiences. This can lead to everyone moving in different directions. For collective flow to be achieved, everyone needs to be rowing in the same direction.
So how do you get everyone clear on where the team is going and how you’re going to get there? The first step is bringing all stakeholders together to get on the same page. A good strategy is to start backwards from a target outcome and map out your smaller goal and tasks from there.
Value Stream Mapping
The value of the value stream mapping technique is all about collective flow. This strategy refers to laying out all the activities from start to finish on how your product or service delivers value to customers; what does your workflow look like; what is your current order of operations?
An extremely important aspect of value stream mapping is measurement. Mapping without measurement can be useless if the map doesn’t represent reality or present anything meaningful or actionable. A value stream map, on the other hand, has data and measurement behind it.
To get this data, you will need to ask your team how long it takes for tasks to be completed, how long it takes from the time a request is logged in the system to be implemented.
Another valuable data point is delay timing. How long do people wait between activities because of ineffective task management? Or because steps aren’t clear? You may identify that your team isn’t using the right tooling to enable proper handoffs.
Value stream mapping gives you everything you should be paying attention to in one place.
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