This podcast covers Chapter 9, “Reinventing Roles” 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.

Flow is based on a belief in multidisciplinary people, not just multidisciplinary teams. This is critical when practicing business agility in order to avoid the confusion associated with the approach of one person-one discipline. By having multidisciplinary people the boundaries (maybe the walls) that exist within an organization can be dissolved to some degree. Critical to the process of developing multidisciplinary people is removal of the gap between product managers (market-oriented) and product owners (IT-based). This is critical because if a digital transformation is to be effective people need to transform how they see themselves at work and how they performed. A good example of what I am trying to say comprises people that work in social media. Those individuals need to be effective across many disciplines. Limiting them to only social media effectively is under using their capabilities. Simply put, role rigidity and refusing to let people develop fungibility decreases value-seeking behavior.

The authors walk through the traditional waterfall approach for the creation of a product, starting with requirements being generated under the product manager, movement through business analysis, and then the creation of an IT project. This leads to poor integration because each group tends to have its own frame of mind which is not coordinated with the other frames of mind. Also, there’s the issue of rigidity in terms of how each department sees its function.

What is really needed in an enterprise is for business goals to be adaptive and iterative so that IT can deliver products consistent with the previous chapters we’ve seen in this book. The key to accomplishing this is working in small units as mentioned in chapter 8. Essentially there is constant iterative experimentation with development-testing, development-testing, rolling out many deliverables on an almost continual basis. An example is provided of creating a customer survey to understand customer needs and specific segments to help shape feature design. Gamification with the social media tools such as Twitter can speed up the process of developing the survey in a rapid, iterative manner that stimulates insights and innovation. Working this way and releasing updates frequently shifts the goal from “understanding customer needs and specific segments” to “a snapshot of customer commentary to key product design fresh.” This behavior requires a balancing act weighing the benefits of speed against comprehensiveness and depth. So, the question is would you prefer to secure value after a few days or week and build on that through multiple iterations or would you rather wait a long period of time before releasing the finished survey. The allowance for the development of adaptive business goals the flex throughout the creation process is superior to holding off the release of value for weeks if not months.

The key to all this is having a product owner who champions flexibility which is substantially different than traditional product management roles. The traditional approach may be difficult for the product owners to have a clear idea as to exactly what value is needed. This is true in Scrum as well as in Waterfall approaches. Traditionally the product owner sits at the IT-Business divide and focuses on the generation of personas while having very little insight into marketing in the customer. So, while the use of Scrum may unblock some of the old Waterfall methods problems are still present. In going to the other extreme and using MVPs (minimum viable product) can create more suspicion because it can encourage minimal commitment to deliver a minimum viable product.

The goal is to have developers who understand the business and can work with the changing matrix of future priorities as well as having an understanding of the user and value creation. There is a need to understand eco-system and associated activities that can be nurtured as well as micro trends that offer immediate opportunities. In other words, this new product owner should be a value-discovery agent.

Another world it needs redefined is product owner. Typically, this role is so tightly bound to the IT culture that it fails to perform well across the entire business. What would be better is to morph that role into one of a value manager. This individual would move just as comfortably with the business unit as they would with the IT department. They can move well from assessing customer needs to creating the work breakdown elements while ensuring these are consistent with the business goals. The value manager would then be in a good position for determining when business goals need to change.

The individual filling this new product owner position which would be better addressed as the Flow Value Manager would be able to find a balance between the following eight aspects that need to be addressed in order to successfully deliver value:

1. Relationship management

2. Market insight

3. Customer segmentation

4. Developer process insight

5. Requirements setting and goals management

6. Workload management

7. Customer feedback management

8. Acceptance testing

This activity would be supported by the following real-time management of feedback loops comprising:

1. Real-time analytics

2. Real-time web analytics

3. Real-time usage analytics

4. Real-time social media analytics

5. Sharing behavior of products and key information between the team members and stakeholders involved

This is all grounded in a frame of mind comprising the following seven components:

1. No projects – moving away from the project frame of mind with defined beginning middle and end and subsequent deliverable

2. No estimates and no budget- -using the Flow approach with consistent cycle times one just counts the key Post-Its on a project or Kanban Wall to arrive at estimates and forecasts

3. Very small units of work – 1-2 day units of work encouraging people to come back to the Wall and interacting socially to move the project forward

4. Co-creating processes – wisdom of the crowd is used to define priorities and determine how objective should be reached including processes and tools to be used

5. Informality – frequent informal acceptance agreement so that work can be kept moving

6. Value-seeking behavior – multiple strategies and constant questioning are used to ensure the value is increasing

7. Experimentation – using a range of hypotheses, a matrix of features is created and pushed through to the customer for feedback before committing to full development of any one of those features

So with the Flow approach instead of having a Scrum Master it’s everyone’s job to ensure that value is delivered. It’s the new Flow Value Manager (Product Owner) who leads the charge.

Here are the link for previous chapter reviews:   

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

episode 0050 of Wrestling With Chaos, For Chapter 8, Value, The Anti-Plan and Testing

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.

Your feedback is important. Choose from the following options:

  • place a review in iTunes,
  • click on “leave a comment” below,
  • send any comments along with your name and the show number to

Listen to future episodes for our reply.