Human DevOps

Tuesday 12th November - Fast Flow and Slow Thinking

Published 7 months ago • 3 min read

It's Tuesday in the Netherlands and it's blowing a gale.

Last week, I co-organised the first-ever edition of our new Fast Flow Meetup in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Despite some pretty atrocious weather then, we got about 30 like-minded flow enthusiasts into a room to discuss the implications of socio-technical systems and how to do the mysterious thing of enabling "fast flow".

So what exactly is "fast flow", and why is it important? So often, despite our tools and processes, we slow down our delivery rather than focus on what our customer wants. Fast flow is about putting the customer at the centre of our actions - aligning our organisation and teams to enable faster flow towards the customer. Therefore, our two talks at our inaugural meetup reflected the nature of socio-technical systems (Joáo Rosa) and how a green energy company in Amsterdam is adapting its Scrum Masters into Flow Masters (Hans Bol).

After the talks, we mingled and discussed the topics raised. This, for me, was the most potent part of the first Fast Flow Conference that happened earlier this year in London. The people who come to fast-flow events are generally curious and want to know how organisational design and reducing cognitive load make for happier and more productive engineering organisations. This is why I find Team Topologies so effective - it's not an agile framework or a prescriptive way of working - it's as much about respecting the people you work alongside as it is acknowledging that the organisation they belong to should support them and not work against them. Team Topologies acknowledges that Conway's Law is real and that better engineering comes through reducing friction and toil between teams and individuals.

On the night, we had many great discussions and as someone said to me on the way out: "These ideas require some more thought. I'll get back to you when I've processed it all".


Recently I've been researching motivation, again inspired by Team Topologies. I wanted to dig deeper into what makes people want to build and support great software. Daniel Pink's book "Drive" is famous in the field of motivation and gives us the notion that while 'old fashioned' carrot-and-stick based approaches can still work in some situations, for optimum results, organisations should appeal to the intrinsic motivations of Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. These ideas come from a large body of work inspired by generations of 'positive psychologists' such as Edward Deci and Richard Ryan. You can read more about this in the linked article below.

Next on my reading list is a book by another positive psychologist - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. His famous book "Flow" also of course came up during the Fast Flow meetup presentations.... now you might see where "fast flow" gets it name from...


Finally, this time, I want to bring to your attention another interesting angle I've been pursuing. That of intentional software architecture and how it always tends to fail. You can call this the 'too many diagrams vs no diagrams' approach of software architecture. Either we have a tendency to overanalyse and get to a situation which doesn't reflect reality, or we choose not to plan and let things just grow organically. Barry O'Reilly's work on "Residuality Theory" leads us towards adaptive architectures that grow but also self-select. You can read more in the other blog post I link below.


I hope you find these topics interesting and of use. I'm preparing a new talk, which I'll be giving for the first time next week in Amsterdam at the DevOops meetup at DataDog. If you're in the area please drop by and say hello.

-- Richard

Daniel Pink’s “Drive” and what Self-Determination Theory (SDT) really says

Published on November 5, 2023

Reading books is sometimes not just for fun; sometimes, you get a connection you need to investigate further. Daniel Pink’s bestselling book “Drive” is somewhere between connection and connector. It’s a book that bridges many huge gaps and brings the vital work of many possibly under-appreciated clinical psychologists into sharp focus. Two of the psychologists… Read More »Daniel Pink’s “Drive” and what Self-Determination Theory (SDT) really says


Are pipelines an effective way to build high quality software?

Published on November 3, 2023

We all want to build better software faster and more reliably. Many valuable simple improvements in code practice, design and process are easy to spot from outside the team or organisation but it is always challenging to know what the best thing to work on is day-to-day. External impetuses from consultants, managers, consultant reports or… Read More »Are pipelines an effective way to build high quality software?


Human DevOps

by Richard Bown

DevOps at is the heart of modern software systems. In my regular newsletter, I dive into the human factors that make successful engineering organizations where teams and platforms thrive at the heart of your socio-technical systems. From leadership to team setup, maximizing performance, tools and techniques.

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