Software Delivery in Small Batches

Adam welcome Steve "The Value Stream Guy" Pereira to the show. The last part of the conversation. Adam and Steve discuss how to get started with flow engineering and value stream mapping. TL;DR: don't wait. Start small today and keep iterating.

Show Notes

The third of a three part conversation on flow engineering with Steve Pereira.

Steve Pereira, aka "The Value Stream Guy", is the author of the Flow Engineering ebook, founder of Visible Consulting, and co-founder of the Flow Collective peer group.

Adam and Steve come back to the fractal nature of flow, value streams, and where to start with improving flow.

Do you like this topic? Come join Steve and I in the Flow Collective.

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What is Software Delivery in Small Batches?

Adam Hawkins presents the theory and practices behind building a high velocity software organization. Topics include DevOps, lean, software architecture, continuous delivery, and interviews with industry leaders.

[00:00:00] Adam Hawkins: Hello and welcome. I'm your host, Adam Hawkins. And each episode I present a small batch, but theory and practices behind building a high velocity software organization. Topics include dev ops, lean software architecture, continuous delivery and conversations with industry leaders. Now let's begin today's episode.

[00:00:26] Adam Hawkins: Hello, and welcome back to small bags. This is the third and final part of my conversation with Steve Pereira. Steve is the founder of visible consulting, the author of a very handy ebook on flow engineering and the founder of the flow collective. And this part of the conversation. We continue our discussion on flow engineer.

[00:00:49] Adam Hawkins: We talk a lot about, you know, the experience of working in different size organizations. And when you know what kind of are the conditions you need to start working on flow engineering. We also come back to the fractal nature of value stream thinking and the ideas of. And we also talk about why it's so important to start mapping, to surface the problems in the connections in your organization.

[00:01:18] Adam Hawkins: So with that, I give you part three of my conversation with Steve Pereira.

[00:01:25] Adam Hawkins: Steve welcome back to small batches. In their previous episode, we talked a little bit about flow engineering capabilities, like how to think about them and how they all relate. And we left off talking about like how to use this stuff, what to do with it. But before we talk about that, I do have a question which is who or what organization is this ideal for?

[00:01:49] Adam Hawkins: Like size maturity. I mean, who's the ideal candidate for this type of exercise.

[00:01:55] Steve Pereira: Yeah, that's a favorite question of mine. And I really think that it's something of a fractal question to previous, back to fractals again, but honestly like the biggest organizations see the biggest results from this. There's a reason why this originated out of manufacturing and large scale manufacturing because waste gets hidden at scale and opportunities get hidden at scale and complexity is a real problem.

[00:02:24] Steve Pereira: In larger organizations. There's very few people. If any. Who can see beyond their role and see even a portion of the value stream that they're working in. And so, like the larger organizations, you see a massive immediate, just like. Huge opportunity for low hanging fruit that the team could probably tackle the next day without automation, without really changing their processes.

[00:02:54] Steve Pereira: There's usually a ton of stuff that they could just stop doing because you, you get everyone in the room who represents the value stream. You get a decision maker. And everybody sees that, that thing that they're doing drives so little value. Sometimes it causes more problems than it's solving and everyone can just in that moment say, okay, let's just not do that tomorrow.

[00:03:15] Steve Pereira: Let's just not do that. The next sprint. And all of a sudden, you know, you might get a day a week. From all these things, these low hanging fruit items, and that really happens in a large organization and a smaller organization. It's easier to keep everything in your head. There's probably a few people really know what's going on from start to finish or feel confident that they do and have, you know, they, they could actually dig up the information if they had to.

[00:03:39] Steve Pereira: In a larger organization, nobody owns these value streams. They exist. Right. But nobody owns them and nobody's keeping track of them. No one knows the boundaries. No one knows where they start, where they finish. Everyone is sort of responsible for their piece, you know, their leg of the relay race. But all they know is that, you know, I hold out my hand at this point and the Baton comes to me.

[00:04:02] Steve Pereira: And then at this point I handed off to someone else and that's it. That works cause. And if, if the Baton makes it to me, everything is.

[00:04:13] Adam Hawkins: Yeah. So your comment about larger organizations that got me thinking about some, like the differences between larger and smaller organizations, like yeah, I totally see at scale how just waste can be totally hidden by not understanding the value stream course.

[00:04:28] Adam Hawkins: You're going to have bottlenecks and value stream of any, you know, of any size differences is going to be like number and magnitude impact on operations, but in a larger organization, a larger system, you're more likely to. Like larger waste is generally speaking, but in a smaller organization where you like five, 10 people like waste is not necessarily a problem.

[00:04:48] Adam Hawkins: They're different kinds of bottlenecks. So my, I guess my question to you is when the smaller organizations that you go through this exercise with the guests, that they're not really focused more like eliminated waste, but more on improving flow through other means. Is that been your experience?

[00:05:07] Steve Pereira: It's actually.

[00:05:08] Steve Pereira: A little bit different than that. They are mostly, yeah, they're mostly, I mean, flow to extent. So here's the, here's the thing with smaller organizations. A lot of them are trying to figure out what's going on because they're all running a top speed. They hope they're running in the same direction, but they don't know.

[00:05:27] Steve Pereira: And they're headed in towards the same direction, but the level of chaos in a smaller organization, that's kind of hoping for. A hockey stick moment or in a hockey stick moment, there's just so much going on that people really don't understand what things should look like and what they could look like.

[00:05:48] Steve Pereira: And even what they do look like. I mean, people are just sort of doing the same thing that they were doing yesterday and kind of making incremental progress and really stressing out about how much they have to do and how little resources they have and how little time they have. So. It's kind of like they're aiming for flow.

[00:06:08] Steve Pereira: They're aiming for more predictability, more clarity on what things should look like and how everyone can be on the same page. Then the side effects are that they develop this ability or this opportunity to kind of systematize some things, build out some lightweight structure that allows them to kind of scale.

[00:06:30] Steve Pereira: And a lot of these cases, you know, someone is. They could be leading a team, but they're stuck because they're, they're doing the work that they should be leading and they can't lead it because they're not able to kind of zoom out and look at the process that's there and operationalize that to hand it off to someone and they can't hire, they can't train because they don't have time because they're busy sawing with a dull saw.

[00:06:57] Steve Pereira: Yeah. And what they need is that they need to step back and sharpen it and look at, you know, I might sign like people are sewing rocks and they're like, I thought this was a tree the whole time. Anyways, there's a lot that can happen. And I think that, you know, the stepping away and mapping and really understanding with your team also, I think there's a, there's a big piece of this in smaller organizations is that you have to assume that every other person is fine and that they're doing their job without issue or else, you know, Like you don't really have the opportunity to worry about other people and worry about the other contributors to the value stream.

[00:07:38] Steve Pereira: So when you step away, you can see that, you know, Sam has been. Killing themselves with this one area of the value stream that they own. And it's because somebody upstream of them, doesn't give them a slightly different artifact that they could use that would make their life so much easier and cut down their workload by half these things surface when you, you do the mapping and you step away as a team, but if you just operate the business as usual, Sam burns.

[00:08:08] Steve Pereira: And, you know, it's an easy fix and it would just take a conversation, but it's not going to happen until you sort of see the big picture and see where that bottleneck is.

[00:08:18] Adam Hawkins: Yeah. You know, it always surprises me like how gracious some people can be with their ability to do work arounds for other people, like just to support other people.

[00:08:29] Adam Hawkins: And it definitely comes from a good place, you know? Like maybe you. Like you could be something as simple as like, Hey, I need this in a PDF. If somebody gives you a word doc and you're like, okay, fine. I'll just do whatever I need. All converted. You know, I'm not going to bother that person with that thing.

[00:08:44] Adam Hawkins: Like, it's fine. I'll do it. And then that sort of compounds over time and like scales up. And then when you look at it on aggregate, you're like, That's kind of a problem like it, but this is I think one of the other things too, just to learn as a participant in these value streams, you know, like one really important principle comes from, you know, the high velocity edge to that, or at least not from there, but I was introduced to it.

[00:09:11] Adam Hawkins: The principle of , which is like built in validation. Like don't let defects leave your station. Like don't propagate errors downstream. And the way that you do that as adding a built-in check to the thing that you're doing to prove like, Hey, yes or no, this is good. And like, if the instructions say export, you know, a PDF and you have a word document will then you know that you need to like, redo that to make sure that you don't cause problems downstream.

[00:09:37] Adam Hawkins: Because the problems are always worse downstream. They take longer to resolve and they have larger, larger downstream ramifications because you know, it may not be propagated like one step, but it might be forwarded down five or six steps before it actually gets used. And the. At that point, who even knows what this thing is, or, you know what it's for, it's just that Baton has been passed and passed and passed, but now we're back to the, just the importance of value stream mapping and understanding, and like seeing the connections between everybody and like the work they do.

[00:10:11] Adam Hawkins: I think one thing that's nice about working in smaller organizations, that's where like most of my experience has been, as you can really make like a personal. Connection with the people that you're collaborating with. Like, it can be really highly collaborative and it doesn't need to be like some, like I'm crossing this department or like scanning this huge organization.

[00:10:31] Adam Hawkins: Nope. I'm talking to Jill over there. I just messaged her on slack and now look what we're able to do, but it's like connecting people to think like that and how like more effectively collaborate, I think really that's at the heart of what you're trying to do. You know, like, as you said earlier, The bottleneck is not individual contributions anymore.

[00:10:49] Adam Hawkins: Like the problem is how do we collaborate and scale that?

[00:10:54] Steve Pereira: Yeah, I think that, that I, I find is a really valuable message of this approach. Is that a. Let's people back into the understanding of the system in a way that you're not saying like, everything is a system and you're not, you know, individuals, you don't have to hit people over the head with it, going through the mapping helps people kind of realize on their own that we're all downstream from something.

[00:11:21] Steve Pereira: And we're all upstream from something. And we're all just dealing with. The flow of value as it comes to us and trying to make sure that it leaves us in a better state than it arrived. And that comes back to that idea of like continuous validation, validating it every step, but it really helps people kind of understand at that upstream party, that other departments in my organization that I hate because they do nothing but shovel crap on me all the time.

[00:11:52] Steve Pereira: They're just dealing with crap. They shuffle on them and you know, all the way up it's crap, all the way up instead of turtles all the way down. And I think that that really builds a sense of real empathy, where you're not asking people to put themselves in other people's shoes. They sort of do. By the nature of this exercise.

[00:12:13] Steve Pereira: And they start to realize, you know, we are really on the same team dealing with the exact same goal. We are all playing a part and we're all just contributing to this as a team. And I think that's really powerful and there's not really other ways, you know, you can go through team building exercises and people are going to grumble and they're going to.

[00:12:32] Steve Pereira: Eventually going to love it if they do it. But a lot of teams don't do that sort of thing, but also doesn't directly relate to their work. I think that the power of mapping is that you get that teamwork aspect of it. You get the team building. People learn more about systems and flow. They learn about these things that matter to the business.

[00:12:50] Steve Pereira: They learn language that matters to the business as well. And vice versa too. You know, all the business people get to see the guts of, oh, that's how we actually do this thing. And that's really powerful because you know, the marketing folks, they would love to understand more about what goes on in software development.

[00:13:09] Steve Pereira: And, you know, the sales folks are always, they always feel like, you know, People are so stuck up and they don't, you know, they don't want to explain anything to me. I don't understand why everything is always late. And, you know, I don't want to ask them and bother them and seem like an asshole. So seeing why everything is the way it is with that systematic view is so powerful for.

[00:13:35] Steve Pereira: Those reasons and many other reasons, it just like, it just accomplishes all these things by nature of the mapping and not the map. Right. That's the other big point that I kind of want to communicate to folks is that it's the act of mapping. That's more important than the map. You could throw the map away once you're done with it and still be so much better off than you were before you started.

[00:13:59] Adam Hawkins: Yeah, because now you understand the connections in the system and that's where the handoffs and all of that, it's where real complexity can happen. So before we go, I want to ask you one more question, which is, let's say that, you know, you know, the listener or listening to this and kind of nodding along and thinking like, okay, yeah, sounds good.

[00:14:18] Adam Hawkins: But what do I do? Like, how do I start with this? Like, is it, I do a value stream mapping? Or like, what do I do if I thinking about flow and I want to improve it right away.

[00:14:28] Steve Pereira: Yeah, well, that's kind of what I was hoping to help folks with. I mean, the flow engineering book is really kind of a quick stab at laying down the basics, but in a way that I hope is kind of clear enough to people that and encourages them to actually start mapping on their own, even if they don't have any enthusiasm from their teams to do anything like this.

[00:14:49] Steve Pereira: You can start the ball rolling by just mapping yourself. Right. Getting your understanding of the system and the flow and outcomes. You know, like if you've got a target that was passed to you by leadership and you're like, oh, okay, like fine. But like, it doesn't seem that much better than the last thing that we were trying to do that we failed.

[00:15:11] Steve Pereira: If you take that and you run it through the outcome map and break it down. It becomes more real to you. You gain a stronger understanding of it and you can have better conversations with folks and that. Driving some positive outcomes in your team, but you can build these maps on your own full of holes.

[00:15:34] Steve Pereira: Right? You can lay out the basics from your understanding and not only are you going to feel more confident that yeah. Yeah. I really don't understand that. I should probably go have a conversation with this person and you can take them out. Right. The map is a portable. Translator. It's a Rosetta stone that you can put in front of someone else and say like, I feel like I understand this part, but this is a big foggy cloud to me.

[00:15:59] Steve Pereira: Do you know anything about this? Because you know, trying to build out this picture of what the process looks like and. I feel like this is an opportunity for us, but I don't really understand much about it. Or, you know, I know that this thing takes a long time, but I don't really understand why it takes a long time and what is complicated, but from where I'm standing, it seems like it's the biggest bottleneck and that can really start driving.

[00:16:27] Steve Pereira: Some powerful conversations, powerful, honest, humble conversations where, you know, you're not throwing stones and making accusations. You're asking really valuable questions and they're not. From like, what's your agenda, right? Your agenda is very clear. You're showing someone the agenda, the agenda is this map.

[00:16:49] Steve Pereira: And it's right now it's full of holes. I would like it to not be full of holes. That's my agenda. Yeah. And I think that's a step above the kind of scary, uncomfortable conversations that we think of having with other departments and people that we, people whose roles we don't truly understand. We can approach them from a position of curiosity and they know that.

[00:17:12] Steve Pereira: Once you build up the map, they're going to get a copy of it. Right. They're going to be able to see, you know, they're going to understand things that they don't understand. And so they're kind of invested in building out this collaborative picture and that's, if you have nothing, that's a, nobody wants to do any mapping, but odds are, you've got enough people who are kind of interested in.

[00:17:32] Steve Pereira: Hopefully you're, you can convince some leadership who can actually make some changes and, and sign off on some things or at least support and give you some time to make some changes. And then you can just run, you know, run a meeting where maybe everyone. Eats lunch or, you know, I don't like for some people to have meetings while that you lunch, but if you're good, if you're in an environment where that's the only time that you can get, you can make progress with that.

[00:17:58] Steve Pereira: You know, you can start mapping with that and you can make it a fun exercise that you come away with insights and you come away with a stronger team and a stronger sense of how you fit into the big picture and a new sense of energy. And. Empowerment around your contribution to the big picture?

[00:18:19] Adam Hawkins: Yeah, my takeaway from what you just said is don't wait, like you can do it on your own.

[00:18:26] Adam Hawkins: You can start on your own. You can make a difference. For yourself and your own work or in your own area, which can then expand out to involve other people and slowly, maybe snowball into something much bigger, but don't assume that you need like a fully integrated thing to start. You can start and build out.

[00:18:46] Adam Hawkins: You'll get more value from doing that than if you were to wait. So, Steve, thank you so much for making the time to come on the podcast and talk about. Fractal flow, flow engineering and the four key maps. Is there anything you'd like to leave the listener with before we go?

[00:19:06] Steve Pereira: Yeah, I think that something just bubbled up while you were talking about, you know, getting started, oh, it's the piece about, you know, a lot of people talk to me and they're like, we would love to do this, but we're not ready to do this.

[00:19:19] Steve Pereira: We just need to be a little bit more organized, need a little bit more time. And that always kind of amused. Because really, this is how you get time and you get space and you get organized, right? If you have no other method for that, it's not just going to happen. Right. What else are you using to make space for yourself to gain a better understanding, to get some time, to sort things out or make your team feel more empowered?

[00:19:51] Steve Pereira: Mapping? Right now we'll do that. It makes the space, and it gets you into a position where you can start to think a little bit more strategically. You can start to really make progress and not just you, your entire team and everyone that you work with. So I would say to people. The right time to start this as tomorrow.

[00:20:13] Steve Pereira: And if anyone is curious about getting started with it, then I would very much encourage them to reach out to me and I'm happy to coach them through any, any part of it that I can.

[00:20:24] Adam Hawkins: Yeah. Well, thank you for the advice. And once again, thank you for coming on the show and who knows? Maybe we'll have you back again sometime.

[00:20:32] Steve Pereira: I hope.

[00:20:33] Adam Hawkins: All right, everybody. Thank you for listening. You've just finished another episode of small batches podcast on building a high-performance software delivery organization. For more information, and to subscribe to this podcast, vote to small batches dot FMS. I hope to have you back again for the next episode.

[00:20:51] Adam Hawkins: So until then, happy shipping,

[00:20:57] Adam Hawkins: like the sound of small batches. This episode was produced by pods. That's pods