Why DA FLEX Suggests Having Explicit Workflow and Agreements

This section of the portal is for supporting the Disciplined Agile Value Stream Consultant Workshop (DAVSC), currently under development. Discussions on the pages here will take place on the Disciplined Agile LinkedIn group.


A fundamental principle in Lean, on which FLEX is partially based, is to improve collaboration via explicit workflow and agreements. Teams and roles often work without any stated way of working. This often leads to confusion and make it difficult to improve because people are:

  1. not sure if there is an agreed upon approach
  2. not sure what it is even if there is one
  3. can’t be sure people are following it so when things go well or bad it’s hard to see what happened or how to improve things

Explicit workflows are not cast in stone but are merely an explicit statement of how people agree is the best way to work together.  A Kanban board is a kind of explicit workflow. It shows what the team thinks is the best way of working. You don’t follow the Kanban board, rather the Kanban board reflects the collaboration methods of the team.

Changes to explicit workflows merely require the people who agreed to them to say “hey, we’re going to do something else.”

Trust, respect and collaboration requires people work well together. It helps if they agree on what they think their best way of working is and discuss it amongst themselves. It also helps if they keep these agreements. Explicit workflows facilitate improvements because you can see where you are, decide what you want to change, and see the effect. They also help onboarding of new team members since what would otherwise be tacit knowledge is visible.

Many frameworks overlook the need for explicit workflows and agreements because they suggest people should follow the framework.


Q: What if we can’t agree on what we should do?

A: Then your explicit workflow is that for this issue there is no agreement and state what people can do. Is it do what they want? Maybe you should capture what happened in different situations and have a retrospection on it so you can see what a good method of working can be.

Q: Are explicit workflows imposed on people?

A: Explicit workflows are made by the team or the roles involved. They are not imposed in that sense. However, all members of a team, as well as all roles, must agree to abide by them. This is consistent with the idea that when teams are forming you agree to abide by the team’s decision but you can share alternative views whenever you want.

Q: Can there be exceptions to explicit workflow?

A: Of course, just say that. For example, if we state that things need to meet a Definition of Ready and they don’t we can have an explicit agreement about how this agreement can be overwritten.

Q: What if there’s a situation where the explicit workflow is clearly wrong?

A: Then do what makes sense. But probably have an explicit agreement that you’ll tell people about it so your ways of working can be improved.

Standard Work

Some explicit workflow agreements are about how to do specific actions. Doing so will help doing PDSA since we’ll understand what’s happening. Standard work is a documented agreement between practitioners about the current best approach for doing a particular action. Standard work is essential for continuous improvement – moving from one standard to a better standard without slipping back.

Standard work describes the work involved in achieving a particular solution. It articulates who, what, when, and where work is done. It focuses on content, sequence, timing and outcomes needed. Standard work is intended as a basis for improvement. It is not a prescription or record of what’s to be done. Rather, it is an identification of steps or activities of the best, currently known approach to achieving a solution, within the boundaries established by the organization; it entails visibility (visual controls) and discipline.

Standard work is not static, and when a better way is found the procedure is updated. Continually seeking ways to improve, one must understand the purpose of the standard, and improve the standard, while adhering to its purpose. As you perform standard work, you will find things you don’t like and you will think of one improvement after another. You should implement these ideas right away and make this improved description the new standard. Embrace practices that are proven in real life.

Additional Resources

The Difference Between Inspect and Adapt and Plan do Study Act (PDSA)