Flow manager - is that me?

Posted by Marcus Hammarberg on April 18, 2016

At my current client I don’t have a role name. Or rather I do but that’s not what I do, nor what I am there to do. It struck me that I have had this problem before. Many times.

Here’s some way it manifests itself:

I’m not “development manager” that some people call me. I have no formal authority, no staff and no budget. And I have responsibilities that stretches over the development team.

I’m not scrum master that is the fall-back term for anything that is around agile and doesn’t fit the normal organizational scheme. However none of our teams work with scrum and i’ve not worked with scrum for at least 6 years. I’m also pro-flow-based processes rather than iteration-based.

I’m not a agile coach since that’s a term that I barely myself understand what it means. I don’t want to be a coach to make people more agile - I want to make the system work better to flow idea faster to production.

So I tweeted:

Let me describe what I mean.

What is the goal of my work here?

Being in my role I am often “responsible for the teams” and ensuring a “good progress in their work”. Well that in itself is no goal? There’s a reason we are here right?

It’s simple, I think. I’ll rip it from the agile manifesto:

Working software is the primary measure of progress.

Working software. Early and often. Or as Woody Zuill puts it

All roles helps to achieve this goal. Mine too - I help the work to flow faster by enabling, coach and help the teams and product owners to move work faster from idea to production.

Manager? Really - you want to be a manager?

Manager is a word that I don’t really like. Or like this; I don’t like the notion of me managing people. That’s for batteries or sheep. You manage things - you lead people. Or even better; work in a fellowship with people

But that’s not what flow manager would be about. It would actually manage the flow. Improving flow.

Good measurement and KPI’s to follow a flow manager up on would be lead time and throughput. In combination.

Short lead times from idea to production generally means that we have a smooth process where small things flows fast and without interruptions. High throughput speaks about the same things: we finish many things per time period (week for example). One good way to do that is to do small things.

If quality is bad or people don’t enjoy work it generally reflect badly on these two metrics two; creating rework or a slow / uneven flow.

Ah - you’re a [insert favorite framework role here]?

Yes, maybe the above is part of what an agile coach does. Or the scrum master. Or maybe even the development manager. But I never seen that responsibilities spelled out for any of these roles.

It’s often a shared responsibility (and it still should be of course) that is implicitly understood to be important by everyone. Maybe one could try to make it the explicit responsibility for one person.

My authority would also be more explicit and easier to understand than it is as a coach. As a flow manager I can have opinions and request about our work that could help it flow better. As a coach this is not really explicit, I’ve noticed. Why should a product owner listen to me as a coach? They should. They could - but it’s not required.


I think I could be a flow manager.

Hi, I'm Marcus. I'm the flow manager here! I'm responsible for a good flow of ideas to working software

I like that. I’m requesting that title now!

Published by Marcus Hammarberg on Last updated