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What is Flow in an agile context? Part 1

Image credit:
Mental state in terms of challenge level and skill level, according to Csikszentmihalyi's flow model. Image credit:

It's been a while since my last post. I started a new role, which has been consuming most of my time. But, I'm back!

Today, I'd like to share about Flow.

“Flow” is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.

You could say that me being completely absorbed by my new role, making me forget about time, is a good example of Flow. (Hence you didn't see a new post from me for some time!)

It was named by psychologist Csíkszentmihályi in 1975, and refers to the metaphor of running water carrying you. He was intrigued by people getting 'lost' in their work. It is also referred to as 'being in the zone'.

Typically we are bombarded with information, and we can only attend to a certain amount of this information at a time. However, when one is in this Flow state, you are completely engrossed with the one task at hand, and subconsciously lose awareness of all other things.

The image summarises the perceived Challenge and Skill level required to reach Flow. You need to have the right balance between the two; you need to have confidence that you can complete the task, despite it being really challenging.

So what does Flow mean to me personally in an Agile context?

In Agile ways of working, we strive for highly engaged, highly satisfied and high performing teams. Teams which reach Flow state at both individual, as team level. The team can achieve this by agreeing on clear objectives, having a social agreement in place, learning new skills, working autonomously etc.

Many of the concepts and ceremonies I've written about previously all help the team develop towards this Flow state.

Edit: After posting this article, some of my valued colleagues pointed out that I might have misinterpreted the concept of Flow in an Agile context. Mea Culpa. I will dedicate a next post to the alternative view error.

Sources: Wikipedia, Csikszentmihalyi M (1997). Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life


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