Enterprises are challenged with fast changing markets but there are many techniques they can use to respond. Why another? The first thing to stress is that Flow is not a methodology as such. It is a philosophy and a light framework for bringing change to an organisation. The specific change we aim at is:
To help companies to act more quickly and to do so with greater confidence in their ability to create value.
If you do not have an answer to these five questions then Flow is for you:
- In a fast changing world, what might create success, or value, for customers, as their needs change too?
- Can we be surer of identifying that value with confidence and then getting it into the flow of work quickly so we can create options for customers and ourselves?
- What is blocking customer-relevant value from being created quickly once an idea is in the Flow?
- Can we remove these blockers so that we can create value more efficiently?
- Can we do these things at scale, with sufficient scope and speed?
Waste or value?
Organisations tend to focus on waste reduction rather than on becoming as pro-value as possible. That means they are not ready for the scale, scope and speed we see from front runners.
Waste reduction is now a regressive focus. It means we often design more waste into processes, products and services because of our obsession with stripping out activity rather than adding in value.
There are five big waste-focus enemies that Flow can help you address.
Goal misalignment. Where we have applied the Flow framework we have found that as many as 30% of projects sponsored by the C-Suite do not relate directly to corporate goals and could easily be cut with no impact on value creation.
Upstream blind spots. Another source of waste occurs when leaders push projects into the flow of work without a clear enough indication that they will bring success to customers.
Lean innovation has increased this risk. It usually means projects get commissioned without sufficient insight into what is emergent within markets and therefore what is changing in customer needs.
The lean cycle of build, test and learn takes too long and has inadequate external market reference points. Take a look at GE’s adoption and you will see what we call Yellow Door syndrome, a clear focus on the customer’s existing but relatively trivial concerns rather than a look to the future at new possibilities.
With Yellow Door syndrome, staff end up working on projects that they know are duds and see startups begin to blindside the enterprise. Or they overcommit to customers who cannot see the future.
Big decision paralysis. In days gone by organisations would grind to a halt when they came to their SharePoint upgrade. All new initiatives were put on hold.
Though we have migrated beyond SharePoint paralysis, many big decisions become equally big sources of waste for large companies.
Grand schemes to replace infrastructure, replatform, go to the single view of the customer or do AI become a sink for pouring in resources that will never come out as value. In Flow we talk of small steps to big strategy.
In particular in Cloud migrations, we have seen tens of millions of dollars created in the space of weeks by using Flow as a framework for work redesign. Even if big projects will always win out, Flow gives you a shot at creating more value much more quickly, while the big program team works towards its day in the sun.
Asset blindness and go-it-alone syndrome: Many organisations reinvent the wheel constantly.
In one client engagement when we were discussing a specific new project we ran an asset discovery workshop that highlighted something extraordinary. In two areas of emerging market need, the company already had products on the bench that were only three to four weeks away from being designed up for launch.
Discovering and logging existing assets that are relevant to a new need is rarely done but it is nonetheless a powerful boost to the speed of innovation. So too are parallel strategies like copycat innovation and ecosystem development (where partners take on part of the burden of innovation).
Process as a blocker. And finally waste is generated by the use of processes and techniques that are inappropriate for getting new tasks done.
We live in an economy where many tasks, in AI, big data, Cloud blockchain, IoT etc are being done for the first time. We do not have the luxury of repetition and learning. What that really means is we have to focus on finding the right process for the right task at hand, now, rather than rely on yesterday’s routines.
Flow is not a detailed set of rules like Scrum, nor is it a work containment model like Kanban. it is the mindset companies ahve been looking for.