Thoughts on Mik Kersten’s Flow Framework

I read Mik Kersten’s helpful book Project to Product shortly after he published it, and I didn’t comment on it at the time. However, a colleague recently asked about The Flow Framework contained therein, so I am now sharing some thoughts on it.

In general, anytime someone promotes the principles of flow management and thinking — especially when he or she is well received for it — I am grateful. That’s largely the case with Kersten’s book. Insofar as it has increased awareness and even the practice of flow management, I commend it. In the interest of giving credit where it’s due, I offer just a few words of potential clarification to say simply that the flow metrics that Kersten advocates are not new but simply repackaged — skillfully and helpfully, to be sure — versions of what many people have been advocating for a while, most notably those in the kanban community.

To that end, here’s a guide to mapping the elements of The Flow Framework with those that they are based on. I don’t really find much added value in the terms that Kersten uses, and I actually find Flow Velocity rather unhelpful, since it conflates a term that’s already well-known in agile circles with something that we already had a perfectly useful word for.

Flow Framework MetricDescriptionOtherwise Known AsDescription (from Essential Kanban Condensed when possible)
Flow DistributionMutually Exclusive and Comprehensively Exhaustive (MECE) allocation of flow items in a particular flow state across a measure of time.Work-Item Type DistributionWork-type mix/distribution (i.e., % allocation to work types)
Flow VelocityNumber of items done in a given time.Throughput/Delivery RateThroughput: The number of work items exiting a system or sub-system per unit of time, whether completed or discarded.
Delivery Rate: The number of work items emerging complete from the system per unit of time.
Flow TimeTime elapsed from when a flow item enters the value stream to when it is released to the customer.Delivery Time/Time to Value/Time in Process/(System) Lead TimeThe elapsed time it takes for a work item tomove from the commitment point to the delivery point. Informally,or if qualified, it may refer to the time it takes to move through adifferent part of the process.
Flow LoadNumber of flow items with flow state as active or waiting (i.e., work in progress).Work in ProgressThe work items that have entered the system or state under consideration, but that have not yet been either completed or discarded.
Flow EfficiencyThe proportion of time flow items are actively worked on to the total time elapsed.Flow EfficiencyThe ratio of the time spent working on an item (Touch Time) to the total Time in Process.

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