Using the Theory of Flow to Illustrate Impediments in Two Hours Instead of Two Weeks

Simply put, the Theory of Flow focuses on two areas:

  • The steps it takes from conception of an idea until value is realized from it
  • Reducing the Cost of Delay, the revenue or opportunity lost because of delays in realizing value

Reducing Cost of Delay (CoD) is essential to the goal of business agility, the quick realization of value predictably, sustainably and with high quality.

Although it is good to attend to proxies that assist in lowering CoD, such as time-boxing and cross-functional teams, it is more effective to attend to methods that directly lower CoD (e.g., increasing flow).

The biggest causes of unnecessary work are delays in workflow, in feedback, and in using information. Other huge causes include unnecessarily large work items, having too many items in work, and hand-offs.

Kanban is especially helpful in improving the value stream network when hand-offs are present. Removing hand-offs, increasing alignment and visibility can improve flow. Kanban boards help make work delays visible. And this visibility helps you make decisions based on what you know now without having to wait to see what’s impeding you – hence the 2 hours needed vs 2 weeks.

But always keep in mind that, because product development is embedded in a complex system, any proposed improvements are just experiments. You try, observe, and adjust.

This is Al Shalloway. Visit us at

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