I have been lucky enough to be on a large integration project lately. On this project, there are four distinct streams and they are being executed in different ways. I would consider all of them to be Agile projects, but some of the streams lean closer to Traditional to Iterations and some lean more towards pure Flow.
It got me thinking and considering if Flow can really be used on a project. Initially I was thinking that Flow wouldn’t be appropriate to use on a project. I had thought that Flow is aligned better with operational activities as opposed to a project. Typically a project is defined as an agreed upon amount of work that a person or team undertakes in accordance with an agreed upon schedule.
“A project in business and science is typically defined as a collaborative enterprise, frequently involving research or design, that is carefully planned to achieve a particular aim.” – Wikipedia
The main difference I see between the using Flow and more structured approaches like Iterations seems to me to be the lack of a Schedule. (Whether the schedule is high-level or detailed)
So I took off to Wikipedia to find the definition of a Plan. 🙂
“A plan is typically any diagram or list of steps with timing and resources, used to achieve an objective. See also strategy. It is commonly understood as a temporal set of intended actions through which one expects to achieve a goal.” – Wikipedia
After reviewing the definition of a Plan, I realized that I was not concerned about the use of Flow as much as I was concerned about the lack of a Plan. If a plan is “a temporal set of intended actions” then starting a project using pure Flow would be starting without a plan.
I am not proposing a Work Breakdown Structure or anything of the sort. But starting a project should require a temporal plan to allow the team to think through the activities, spot conflicts and prerequisites, and create a schedule. (at a level the team thinks is appropriate)
I think Flow does naturally have its place on very routine and repeatable processes. In can also be used on projects with great success. It does not however remove the requirement for a plan.