There are four main dimensions to effective workflows:

  1. what is being worked on
  2. how the teams are organized
  3. how the work is being done
  4. how much work is being done

Success and Value

  • Get clarity on what success means for you and your organization
  • Focus on value creation for your clients, staff, organization, and society
  • Focus on delivering high value quickly that is easily consumable
  • Attend to the quality of the product

Attend to the effectiveness and efficiency of your workflow

  • Use pull, manage queues, and have a focus on finishing
  • Work on small items of deliverable value
  • Have short feedback cycles at all levels of the work
  • Organize your people to eliminate delays and handoffs in the workflow
  • Start with a fit for purpose starting point

Leadership and Management

  • Have leadership provide clarity on the why of the organization
  • Have management work to create a great working environment for the people of the organization
  • have those close to the work make decisions and provide them with the information they need to make good decisions

Overall Guidance

  • Understand the customers’ value stream
  • Design a customer journey that improves their operational value stream
  • Align your efforts around improving your development value stream
  • Focus on value delivery with high quality. Then how your team works within that context.
  • Recognize that those parts of an item to be released that are not finished represent incomplete work. The more incomplete work that is present, the more risk present.
  • Look for ways to work with others
  • Work on small items of value
  • Minimize delays in the workflow by managing queues, focusing on finishing, and avoiding handoffs.
  • Organize people into teams to reduce handoffs within a team and between teams
  • View handbacks[1] as symptoms of misunderstanding or as discovering a prior step was not done properly
  • Attend to the constraints in the system. Don’t try to improve everything at once.
  • Focus on global improvement and be aware of local improvements that don’t attend to global improvements
  • After completing something, look to finish something else before starting something new.

A Note About Amplio’s Focus on Workflow and Systems

Theories of Flow and Lean suggest that we need to attend to the workflow across the organization, not just the people creating the value. This provides a holistic perspective that can shorten the time to market.  The Theory of Constraints is also consistent with attending to the workflow. Edwards Deming (the person the Japanese credit with bringing quality to Japanese manufacturing) provided evidence that 96% of errors were due to the systems people used – not so much the people themselves. While this evidence was for manufacturing systems, it also holds in knowledge work.

The focus on workflow instead of people is not a degradation of the importance of people. It is just the opposite. It is based on our trust in people, so we don’t need to manage them. Instead, we want to give them an effective, efficient, sustainable environment.


[1] A handback is when one person hands some work to someone else and then later they come back and hand it back or ask questions about it. This shows up as work moving backward in the value stream.


Go to Amplio Development: The Path to Effective Lean-Agile Teams 

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