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Fast-Flexible-Flow in Scrum was Re: Origins of Scrum

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  • Alan Shalloway
    I was asked this question off-line in response to my posting that mentioned fast-flexible-flow. You talked about this on the scrum list, but I don t find it
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 2, 2007
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      I was asked this question off-line in response to my posting that
      mentioned fast-flexible-flow.

      "You talked about this on the scrum list, but I don't find it my
      search. Do you have reference for it?

      And I very much like explaining scrum practices in terms of lean.
      Ungrounded practices have a much harder time of being accepted. Lean
      is concrete and has many examples of successful adoption. Talking
      about empirical process control always seems a little distant from
      producing software.


      Thought I'd elaborate here as others would likely be interested. I
      discuss this in the context of how this relates to Scrum.

      Womack and Jones talk about Lean as Fast-Flexible-Flow in their book
      Lean Thinking. This viewpoint is very powerful and is completely
      consistent with both the Poppendieck's view of Lean Software
      Development and the Scrum method of developing software.

      The concept behind Fast-Flexible-Flow is:

      • Fast – deliver value to the customer quickly
      • Flexible – what you are delivering is different most every time so
      your process of delivery has to change accordingly
      • Flow – view this process of fast delivery as a flowing of adding

      Let's look at these a little more in depth and explain how they
      relate both to the principles of Lean Software Development and Scrum.

      FAST. Adding value to the customer quickly has many advantages.
      Scrum's iterative process guided by the customer/product owner is
      geared towards this. Lean Software Development's "Deliver Fast" is
      another way of saying this. Both Womack and Jones and the
      Poppendieck's explicitly say this speed must be maintainable. I
      don't recall Scrum specifically talking about this, but it is a
      strong implication of Scrum and all of my favorite Scrum coaches
      talk about automated acceptance testing as one means of
      accomplishing this. We want speed now and in the future. We are
      not talking about hacking. I like to talk about it as "focusing on
      the ability to add value quickly now, without adversely affecting
      the ability to add value quickly in the future."

      FLEXIBLE. Building software is a series of related one-offs. The
      ultimate in flexibility. Ironically, Lean's roots go back to when
      the Japanese had to create short runs of cars since they could not
      compete with the United States' mass production. How to create work-
      cells to build small runs was of paramount interest. I suspect this
      is what drove Toyota to focus so much on the time aspect of building
      and developing things. Time is even of more essence in software
      development since our value (thoughts, knowledge, …) degrades much

      FLOW. The metaphor of flow is very powerful and provides many
      insights. Think of a stream bed where water is flowing through it.
      The maximum rate of flow occurs when there are no blockages.
      Conversely, anything that impedes flow is bad. This is the basis
      for the "stop the line mindset" of Lean where when something impedes
      the flow you fix the impediment, you don't work around it. This is
      also consistent with the Daily Scrum where we mention impediments
      with the intention of removing them – and thereby keeping up the
      productivity of the team. Having a workcell be one of the practices
      of Scrum is also consistent with this. There is no waiting for team
      members who are needed to work on something – which would impede
      flow. There is no thrashing of team members caused by working on
      multiple projects – since in Scrum we have everyone work on one
      project if possible.

      Of further interest, the 5 principles on which Womack and Jones'
      base their fast-flexible-flow approach (Value, Value Stream, Flow,
      Pull, Perfection) are a pretty much exact match of Scrum
      values/practices as well. But I won't go into those here.

      In summation, Scrum's workcell approach to building stories as
      smoothly and quickly as possible mirrors Womack and Jones' view of
      building/developing things with Fast-Flexible-Flow. By building off
      the decades of thinking about this problem in manufacturing and
      product development, we can assist our own thinking of how to apply
      our practices in the world of software development.

      Alan Shalloway
      CEO, Net Objectives
      Training, Coaching and Mentoring Services worldwide.
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