Introducing FLEX – FLow for Enterprise Transformation: Going Beyond Lean and Agile (online book)

This book is designed to be used as a guide for organizations to achieve business agility – the quick realization of value predictably, sustainably and with high quality.  It does this by codifying the author’s 20+ years of experience in Lean, theory of flow, theory of constraints, Agile, Scrum, Kanban, technical agility and more in improving organizations. It presents what needs to happen for organizations to increase their effectiveness and how to accomplish this.

As described in the preface (this one is worth reading, really), FLEX comes from the mindset of Flow and uses Lean and Agile to help achieve it.  It takes a scientific approach to product development that has a software component.  While presenting theory to explain why practices work and what’s needed, you’ll find this book to be very pragmatic. It will teach you to see your challenges in a different way, provide a set of solutions to pick from to solve them, and give an holistic view so you can make localized changes that achieve global improvements.

This does not mean this is an adoption by the numbers approach. That’s not possible since we live in a world of complexity. The science of product development flow along with the laws of software development are presented within the context of human complexity and organizational behavior. It is not enough to know what to do, it must be clear why these are good concepts so that people don’t resist them. Although I’ve labeled the approach FLEX, it is not intended to be a proprietary approach. Rather it is a scientific approach pulling from all known disciplines that add value to this difficult endeavor.

FLEX is not yet another framework. It’s an approached designed to identify your challenges and come up with a tailored approach to them while providing you specific actions to take. It solves the dilemma that people need a well-defined place to start, yet no one-size fits all. FLEX is used to create an effective starting point, use it, and adjusting it as the organization learns. This enables quicker, more effective starts than is possible with preset frameworks.

The FLEX approach is simple:

  1. Get clear about what you want to accomplish.
  2. See where you are and what challenges you have.
  3. Investigate solutions to these challenges, taking advantage of 20 years of experience with Flow, Lean and Agile.
  4. Select the areas of improvement and create a roadmap for adoption.
  5. Start implementing the roadmap.

Who this book is for

This book is for people who want to be involved in deciding what they should be doing. If you are looking for a cookie cutter approach with a preset solution, this book is not for you. However, if you want to be given a model in which to understand your challenges and how to solve them, you will find value here.  You won’t have to reinvent the wheel – most of the challenges organizations now have are not new and have been solved in one or more ways already.

While useful for anyone who wants to learn about how to improve the capabilities of their organization, FLEX has been specifically designed for the following personas:

  1. companies that want to become more Agile and are not sure where to start
  2. people who are currently struggling with Agile methods and want to improve
  3. people who are considering SAFe as their framework but have misgivings about it
  4. people who are using SAFe reasonably well at the program level but find the higher levels more cumbersome
  5. people who would like to figure out how to tie business to an Agile development group

FLEX stands on its own but builds all of the popular Lean and Agile methods available today. If you are using SAFe I’ve added a section on how to use FLEX to both enhance and simplify SAFe.

The heart of our approach is using Flow and Lean principles to guide business stakeholders, product managers, product owners, teams, ops, support and marketing (and anyone else who is needed) in how to make better decisions to achieve business agility – the quick realization of value predictably, sustainably and with high quality.

FLEX is the accumulation of years of small to large-scale adoption by Net Objectives consultants (since 2005).

Organization and how to use this book

After a brief overview of FLEX, the book is divided into 7 parts:

Part I: An overview of the FLEX system with exercises. This part starts with what we’re trying to achieve – business agility – the quick realization of value predictably, sustainably and with high quality.  I then explain how the theory of Flow – avoiding delays in workflow while focusing on creating what will be of greatest value to the organization and their customers – can be used to guide this.

Part II: The value stream of the effective organization. We then go through the value stream, identifying what’s in your organization’s way and what can be done to improve its process.  By presenting a vision of an effective enterprise, it becomes clear what needs to happen to achieve it.

Part III: New Roles Needed. Some roles above the team level are also needed. I’ll present them here.

Part IV: Agreements We Make With Each Other: The Guardrails. The guardrails are agreements made across the team on how to work together.

Part V: How to use FLEX in your organization. Understanding where we want to go is only half the picture. We need to see where we are so we can decide what our best course of action is.  This part walks us through how to create an assessment of where we are and what we need to do to improve.

Part VI: Topics In depth – Value Stream Wide. These are topics that run across the entire value stream and are presented to deepen what was presented in the first two parts.  They are presented in a separate section to allow for quicker coverage of FLEX in parts I and II.

Part VII: Topics In depth – Practices. These are practices that are useful and are presented to deepen what was presented in the first two parts.  They are presented in a separate section to allow for quicker coverage of FLEX in parts I and II.

Part VIII: Topics In depth – Teaching and Adoption. These are topics that relate to both internally teaching concepts and about how to adopt new methods. They are presented to deepen what was presented in the first two parts.  They are presented in a separate section to allow for quicker coverage of FLEX in parts I and II.

Part IX: Using FLEX to both enhance and simplify SAFe. FLEX provides a more effective, yet simpler Lean Portfolio and Product Management system than SAFe’s. This part discusses how to use it with SAFe while keeping those practices in SAFe that works.

Part X: Additional resources on the portal.The Next Objectives Portal has a huge amount of information on it. This Part is an entry point for those reading this book.

The book is laid out this way to enable a quick read through FLEX and using it. The reader can go to the in depth topics when they want to learn more.

There are several different ways to read this book:

  1. Read it straight through (possibly jumping ahead when a topic in the later parts appear to be of interest)
  2. If you are considering SAFe, start with Part IV (read the pre-requisite readings listed there first)
  3. Read the special set of chapters designated as being outside normal Agile thinking. While not a cohesive set on their own, each chapter presents either new or not widely known material.

 


Note

The next FLEX course is currently being scheduled in August 2019 in southern Orange County, CA.

If you want to learn more about FLEX you can take an online course at the Net Objectives University.

If you want to learn about how to adopt FLEX in your organization please contact the author, Al Shalloway.