This podcast covers Chapter 8, “Value, The Anti-Plan and Testing of “12 Steps to Flow: The New Framework for Business Agility,” by Haydn Shaughnessy and Fin Goulding, developers of the internationally acclaimed workshop, Flow Academy.

The chapter opens with obstacles to the creation of value:

1. Searching to save costs rather than creating value;

2. Failing to truly understand value until we fully understand what customers will buy, enjoy, and share;

3. Planning too much and not testing enough.

The authors turned their focus to the issues associated with planning, where planning is inappropriately used as a quality control tool. In the end this can create too much rigidity and planning can be viewed as taking too much time. Testing is then used to take up the slack which, consequently, puts testing in a poor light is a compensation for value-based activities.

What works better is the socialization of the whole process where a iteration and testing culture can keep the work flowing in a very public way. This is a basic underpinning of business agility.

Something is needed beyond the waste reduction associated with Lean and Agile. Those approaches focus on efficiency rather than value. With Lean it’s the straight out reduction of cost and waste while with Agile situation is vague because there are no clear directions as to how to actually increase value.

The important point here is that efficiency should not be confused with value creation. Said differently, throughput is not the same as value.

Value-seeking behaviors based solely on the creation of features and functions that create a better customer experience. Visualization of processes fosters social interaction which increases the probability of success.

In order to be flexible, and move quickly unit testing is a key component of Flow. This pushes the approach of constantly testing at as low-level as possible in order to increase the frequency with which features are delivered. This is in contrast to having a big plan with big tests at the end of development. What is critical is for the entire organization to understand their state in the creation of quality product rather than viewing it as some activity left for the IT department. The shorter the timeframe between testing events the better, e.g., being able to test product every 12 hours in response to micro trends. The authors propose taking this frame of mind to other areas of the company such as marketing and distribution. A good example of this is same-day delivery for products ordered online.

Some costs associated with this are incurred because of the speed with which changes being implemented, e.g., friction between team members and stakeholders as they redefine their roles and personal boundaries as well as the IT department working with other areas of the organization. This could be applied marketing by furthering the process of segmentation which would, for example, allow for faster, more specific A/B testing. Also, there is the need for interdisciplinary training for the team members.

One aspect of workflow that can inhibit this process is the use of traditional waterfall project management where projects are planned for and approved many months or years prior to implementation. This frustrates the approach of using small unit testing to quickly adjust the teams approach in order to meet the customer’s needs.

The authors provide a 12 point summary of their conversation with Alan Murphy regarding quality, testing, and value:

1.  Traditional testing suites bite off more than they can chew;

2.  Code often gets put into production too early;

3.  Difficulties associated with the word “done;”

4.  Small unit testing brings IT closer to other areas of the business to the benefit of the customer;

5.  Unit testing can be coupled to just-in-time acceptance tests;

6.  Unit testing is really what makes DevOps work;

7.  Units of work should always be the smallest breakdown possible;

8.  Good practice involves a broad coverage of unit testing;

9.  Unit testing is applicable across all work in all departments;

10. Developers should always challenge product owners about the value of any increment of work;

11. Everyone should be focused on value;

12. There should always be a continuous reevaluation of key roles like product owner, product manager, and project manager.

With the trending towards being small the authors see testing and its relationship with Flow as something that can be applied across the entire organization in order to quickly shift with market demands and provide customers the value they need. This gets past the problem of the big projects which push value too far into the future. This is probably best exemplified in the management of drone fleets, a behavior based on real-time interactive activity rather than long-range planning. Trial and error or test-and-see are very common approaches drone fleet management. This rolls back to the need for team members and stakeholders to have a multi-disciplined approach individually as well as within teams as well as across the organization.

Here are the link for:   

episode 0037 of Wrestling with Chaos. the Introduction, The Value Seeking Enterprise, and Chapter 1, Talking About Business Agility:

episode 0042 of Wrestling With Chaos. For Chapter 2, The Customer In The Agile Business.

episode 0043 of Wrestling With Chaos. For Chapter 3, Disrupting The Cadence of Work

episode 0045 of Wrestling With Chaos. For Chapter 4, Taking Advantage of Visible Work

episode 0046 of Wrestling With Chaos, For Chapter 5, Anti-Project Thinking and Business Agility

episode 0047 of Wrestling With Chaos, For Chapter 6, Creating Value-Seeking Behavior

episode 0049 of Wrestling With Chaos, For Chapter 7, The Agile C-Suite

For more on the various “Walls” using Post-Its refer to their excellent book, “Flow.”

In line with Business Agility and dealing with complex situations, you can download CMC’s free e-book MINDSET – 5 SIMPLE WAYS TO LOOK AT COMPLEX PROBLEMS and learn how to find a simple vantage point from which you can resolve challenges.

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