Have we forgotten our key denominator: FLOW?

Nigel Thurlow

SUMMIT LEAN AND AGILE 2022 - Tuesday, Oct. 11 Florence, Italy


The word Lean came from John Krafcik, he was a Toyota guy at one time. When he was the chairman of Google's autonomous driving Division, he came up with the word Lean when they were writing a paper for the Sloan Business Review and they used it to describe Toyota's management system. He talked about Lean being the fundamental to the total elimination of waste. Waste are activities that we do all the time, but that have no value. Waste, or muda in Japanese, doesn't just mean waste, it means all things are senseless or meaningless.

In a product development environment, eliminating waste doesn't only come from good quality or good processes, but also from how fast can you adapt to changes, how fast can you change your products and services and how fast can you deliver the features, the functions and the capabilities the market and the client need.

So basically it's not about elimination, it's about creation. It's about creating an uninterrupted flow in everything we're doing. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was an American Hungarian Professor who first wrote this book on Flow, about being in the zone where nothing else matters except what they're achieving. You see great athletes do this, it's known as being in the zone.

Flow is not a replacement for Agile, there's no such thing as a Flowmaster. It's not a framework that's the next thing, it's also not a methodology, it's not a tool, it's not a prescription. It's not a Manifesto either.

In the lean view, Flow is continuous value-added activities in the seamless transition from ideation to delivery. It's also an emergent outcome, you can't command somebody to develop flow. You can set the conditions for it but, you can't say that shall now flow. Flow is a construct, so it's an idea or theory containing various conceptual elements.


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Nigel Thurlow

Nigel is an internationally recognized expert on the Toyota Production System and the Toyota Way, as well as Lean Thinking, Agile, Scrum, and Complexity concepts. In addition to his work at Toyota, he has also taught and coached at Vodafone, Banco Popular, GE, Bose, 3M, Microsoft, University of North Texas, and MIT in recent years.



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