Focusing on What Matters

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Steve Tendon

Managing a business can feel like piloting a ship in a hurricane. We spend so much time responding, adapting, and adjusting course that it can be easy to lose sight of our destination.

Today, we’re joined by Steve Tendon, a sought-after adviser, coach, speaker, and founder of TameFlow Consulting. He shares some theoretical knowledge and practical advice for leaders hoping to spend more time on the things that matter, and less time just trying to stay afloat. 

Key Points

  1. TameFlow Approach: Enhances organizational performance and employee happiness by focusing on impactful activities, using a systemic approach that doesn’t sacrifice quality or humanity.
  2. Theory of Constraints (TOC): Identifies and manages key constraints within an organization to improve unity of purpose and community trust, boosting overall performance.
  3. Managing Four Flows: Operational, psychological, financial, and informational flows are managed to maximize profitability, efficiency, communication, and happiness at work.
  4. Practical Application: TameFlow is especially effective in software engineering, focusing efforts on the system’s constraint to increase throughput and improve team dynamics, fostering a more focused and happier workplace.

Connect with Steve and learn more about TameFlow here


Happiness means different things to each of us. After doing extensive research, Management 3.0 founder Jurgen Appelo discovered a common thread: Happiness is something we create. It is not something to achieve. It is a path you choose, not a destination to arrive at.

So many of us spend our lives in pursuit of happiness. Instead of searching for it, we need to find ways to live it, embrace it, and implement it into our daily lives. That’s why we created the 12 Steps to Happiness at Management 3.0.

You can find more information and even download a free poster of the 12 steps here.


*Please note that the transcript has been automatically generated and proofread for mistakes. But remains in spoken English, and some syntax and grammar mistakes might remain.

Elisa Tuijnder: [00:00:00] In recent years, managing a business can feel like piloting a ship in a hurricane. We spend so much time responding and adapting and adjusting course, that it can be easy to lose sight of our original destination. Today we speak with an advisor, coach and consultant who has dedicated his [00:00:30] career to helping leaders tame the sea.

Allowing them to spend more time on the things that matter, and less time just trying to stay afloat.

Before we dive in, you are listening to the Happiness at Work podcast by Management 3. 0, where we are getting serious about happiness. I’m [00:01:00] your host, Elisa Tuijnder, Happiness Enthusiast and Management 3. 0 team member. In this podcast, we share insights from industry experts, influencers, and thought leaders about what it takes to be happy, motivated, and productive at work, so that loving your job becomes the norm and not the exception.

We will be publishing every fortnight on Friday, so be sure to tune in and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.[00:01:30]

Our guest today is Steve. Steve Tendon, a sought after advisor, coach, speaker, and founder of Tameflow Consulting. So thank you so much for joining us today, Steve.

Steve Tendon: Hello, I’m so glad to be here and I should really start with, hello friends of Furby and maybe you’ve heard me say that some other times. If you don’t know what it is, I will explain it later.

Elisa Tuijnder: Okay, perfect. So I’m really excited to know what that’s all about and excited to discuss TeamFlow with you and your [00:02:00] approach today. But before we jump in, we always start with the same question and that is, what does happiness mean to you?

Steve Tendon: Oh, that is a really philosophical question if you want and I don’t know really from where to start.

I mean, we could use all sorts of psychological theories with masters and so on. But on that topic, I think, uh, we might want to make a distinction between, you know, happiness on the personal level and happiness at work as, as is the title of your, your [00:02:30] series. And happiness at work is very well defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his, uh, his theory of mental flow states, psychological flow states.

When you have an optimal experience, when you have like the balance of, uh, mastery, uh, and, and control, and, uh, you’re always on the edge and, but you’re always progressing. And we, I think we’ve all had that sort of experience and it makes you really feel good. [00:03:00] But on a more personal level, I, I would say one condition is, uh, the absence of fear, not in the sense of being reckless, although I’m known for being reckless many times, uh, but, but, uh, you know, not being afraid of being yourself to be comfortable and to be able to speak your mind and, um, and last, and this is very much related to all what I’m doing with this.

With Tameflow is to, to be, or rather to cause, to create a [00:03:30] condition of, uh, of harmony, harmony, like both internal harmony with yourself and harmony with, um, well, with the outside world, the elements, outside factors, outside people, the environment, everything. So the pursuit of harmony, I think is maybe what, what makes you happy.

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great answer. Um, so we’ve mentioned Tameflow, uh, a few times, Tameflow consulting a few times. Can you, uh, tell us what you really do [00:04:00] with people? How is, does it work? And also, I also like to know how you, you know, how you got to it. What’s your personal story? You always like to know what makes the person tick and how they got to, yeah, to becoming somewhere, to going somewhere.

Steve Tendon: Um, okay. I have like Two definitions of Teamflow, one, uh, it’s boring, but, but it gives you a sense.

Elisa Tuijnder: It’s a

Steve Tendon: praxis driven systemic approach for organizational [00:04:30] performance innovation. Notice that performance innovation, which is based on patterns and reference models of thinking and decision making. So that was a mouthful.

And I think I don’t think anybody would remember that. So more, more, uh, in, in, in common layman terms, I would say it’s, uh. It is a management approach or a management paradigm that helps goal oriented businesses to focus on the fewest things that make [00:05:00] the greatest impact on performance, leading to happier people and higher profits, but without compromising on sustainability, quality, and humanity.

Yeah. That’s, that’s much more accessible.

Elisa Tuijnder: Absolutely. And that’s very well, that’s very much aligned with, with what, what, what we do, uh, as well, very much, um, same, same wording and same taglines. Uh, same, same feelings. So we’re very happy to hear that we’re on the same trajectory to making people better wavelength, [00:05:30] wavelength exactly.

Of flow. Almost , let to use the word again. And how, how, when did you start? How did you start? Um, tell us a little bit about. About you, what’s your story? What’s your narrative?

Steve Tendon: Well, I cannot say that Tableau started at a specific date because, uh, it’s been, uh, my, uh, my professional life since I started working in this, uh, this field, because in, uh, in the previous [00:06:00] millennium, so that’s the Stone Age.

I remember

Elisa Tuijnder: it. Remember it.

Steve Tendon: I, I, I was, uh, I started as a software engineer and it was with the famous company Borland, Borland International, uh, the makers of Turbo Pascal, if anyone remembers what that was, an amazing, amazing product and, uh, Borland was outstanding, not only because of the performance of the products, but also their way of working.[00:06:30]

In fact, um, James Coplin studied, he was working at AT& T and he studied many companies to figure out which were the best, best ones making software. And he described this study. He was like the seed of the, uh, organizational patterns for, uh, for agile software development. His papers inspired Jeff Sutherland to scrum master role But those things [00:07:00] came directly from Borland.

Borland was the outlier on the performance charts. Those two things were picked up and inspired Jeff to, uh, to introduce those elements. And I was fascinated by that, that study. So that’s how I picked up patterns. Patterns became an integral part of my way of thinking about this field. Then around 2003, I, um, I ran across David Anderson’s book on, on the theory of constraints and software engineering management.[00:07:30]

And it was my discovery of the theory of constraints. And, uh, it was, uh, an epiphany because why, why? Because, well, in the, uh, collection of patterns, um, that describe new high performing organizations, there are a few fundamental patterns, which, uh, which I’ve picked up. One of which is the unity of purpose and the community of trust.

Constraints management, theory of constraints, uh, has a wonderful effect when you want to. like the [00:08:00] unit of purpose, because it gives a focal point. The whole company can come together. So it’s, it helps, it facilitates the creation of the unit of purpose. In fact, you know, in those, those years I worked at a huge case, uh, where I used a lot of psychological patterns and I did not know about TOC or I was discovering TOC.

But I didn’t have it internalize it completely, but I was working with these ideas of creating, uh, teams that were [00:08:30] all, all in it together. So TOC had a huge impact there. But then in 2006 or seven, more or less, when David Anderson introduced, uh, the Kanban method, he did so by throwing away TOC. And that was mightily disappointed.

He replaced TOC with the Kanban method for, uh, for software management. And, uh, and I lost, um, and I lost this focus [00:09:00] on the constraint. And by the way, you know, I, at the beginning, I said, hello, friends of Herbie. Well, Herbie is the, the colloquial term that TOC community uses to talk about the constraint, to represent the constraint.

And there’s a long story behind that as well. So in 2006, my friend Herbie, it just was, uh, and I was thrown out of the door. And, uh, I couldn’t

Elisa Tuijnder: stand,

Steve Tendon: no, it’s for me, it was a disaster. I lost my best friend, so I had to figure out a way, um, how to bring back [00:09:30] this element so we could focus and create the units of purpose.

And I’ve started a long journey. I, I took my master’s degree in, uh, in lean agile software project management with University of Aberdeen, hoping to find. I had to find Herbie in those studies,

Elisa Tuijnder: it was three years of

Steve Tendon: digging, but no, I didn’t find him. But eventually, you know, I started getting my own ideas in place and between 2012, 2014, I did my first, how can I call it, [00:10:00] systemization of, of my thinking.

And that resulted in my first book about hyperproductive knowledge, but it was still very rough at the edges. Um, but it was only the seed of the ideas. Then a bit later, 2014 I had a huge, uh, a huge case, uh, in, uh, in Germany, and that’s where all the, the ideas started to consolidate. I started to gain clarity on how to do this thing or how to [00:10:30] find the constraints in knowledge or in order to create the unit of purpose.

I had a few years of, um, being off this field. I was engaged in, uh, The blockchain industry of all places. Ah, okay. , uh, I did many things there, but then in 2020, 21 I had like the second wave of systemization. That’s where I wrote the, the second and third book about Tam, the book of Tamlo and standing of this.

And now 2020 3, [00:11:00] 24 coming. I am like in the third wave of developing these ideas. Yeah. And uh, I am, I’m already getting a lot of, uh, controversial. No reactions because I’m, I’m, uh, claiming for instance, that, you know, the current craze in the industry, which is value stream, value stream mapping and management, I say it’s completely unfit for, uh, for software engineering management and I’ve developed a new approach entirely.

So that is what is, will come, uh, in the next few months. So that’s [00:11:30] my, my trajectory, my journey.

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah. Kicking some shins then. Oh, yes. Nice. And can I just ask for one clarification? Because, uh, for those listeners who were not familiar with the theory of constraints and, and I feel like that’s really part of the essence of, of what you do, so could, in, in a sentence, what is theory of constraints?

What is it all about?

Steve Tendon: I would love to tell you the story of Furby, if you want.

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah, go for it then.

Steve Tendon: So, Uh, Herbie is a boy scout with, uh, uh, in a [00:12:00] team. And, uh, one morning they gather and they set off for a hike. And of course they, uh, they have, uh, uh, they envision how they will be walking now through the woods, climb the mountain, uh, across the river, the streams.

And finally, before sunset, they want to arrive at, um, at the base camp. So this sounds like a plan and a deadline. Oh, it’s familiar territory and we have to do stuff before a certain date. And when they set off, they, uh, [00:12:30] the first part is simple walking, but then the hike becomes more challenging. The terrain is more difficult.

The incline gets tougher and slowly, but surely Herbie starts to fall back. And the team leader after a while now starts shouting, Herbie, come on, move on. I mean, no, no shouting at people is always good. They will certainly react, but it doesn’t tell, it falls back more and more. And at the end, the line is spread so long that the [00:13:00] team doesn’t hold, everyone stops.

Let’s wait for Herbie. And, uh, and it gets this idea that, uh, you know, at least we, we might avoid the line spreading thing. So we. We don’t lose someone in the woods, either at the front or the end. And this tells the Boy Scouts, now you stay in your position and you join hands and you turn around. So basically the first, the first one becomes the last and the last one was Herbie becomes the first.

And therefore they are all [00:13:30] walking behind Herbie. Of course they are grumpy. So why should we walk so fast? We will never make it to base camp before sunset. And the team leader thought, yeah, that’s right. I’m not losing people, but we won’t make it anyway. So it tells the boy scout to stop once again, and, uh, he looks at Herbie, sees that his backpack is really huge, and says, no, Herbie, what, what do you have in that, that backpack?

And Herbie starts picking out six cans of [00:14:00] tuna, boots, uh, tents, uh, equipment, all sorts of things. And, and the leader said, why, why are you carrying all these things? Herbie said, well, I, I, I am a Boy Scout. I am always prepared, as Boy Scouts should be, right? And it was just a huge load. So the team leader says, well, now everyone carries a piece, Herbie’s gear.

So they share the load. And sure [00:14:30] enough, Herbie, with less baggage, with less weight, can walk faster. And finally, they arrive, base camp. Just before sunset. Now, there are many things to talk about here, but the interpretation that I want to give to the story is that, well, you know, we are a team, we leave no one behind alone in the woods, and we always share the work together.

So that is the essence of finding the units of purpose in the [00:15:00] story. The technical aspect, which is the one that the theory of constraints highlights, is that Herbie is the constraint of the whole team. And unless you all subordinate, that’s the term they use, it does sound nice, but it means unless we all walk behind Herbie, we will get lost.

Someone will get lost. We don’t want that. And then we have the, the sharing of the, of the load, which means that we elevate the capacity of the [00:15:30] constraints. The constraint can, can give us more of what is needed in this case, the speed of, of walking Based. Yeah. So that in a nutshell is the story of Herby.

There’s both a technical and, uh, a human human, a

Elisa Tuijnder: human, yeah, a human component to it. That is, that is very beautiful. That is very nice. Uh, and nice also to have the visualization with it, so that makes it more.

So let’s kind of dig into that [00:16:00] Tameflow approach in action and make it a little bit more practical. What does it look like in action? And is it only for software development or is there a way beyond, beyond this realm of software development? Is there applications for it as well?

Steve Tendon: Uh, there is definitely a broad, a broad range of application, I would say any, any kind of, uh, of collaborative knowledge work, uh, no matter what the, the domain is, uh, can benefit from the ideas of Tameflow.

[00:16:30] However, given my background and, uh, and history, uh, it really excels in, uh, software engineering setting. And especially, I would say now that, uh, we are in the age of software and we have all these huge companies doing software in all possible ways. When we are in a quote, quote, quote, I don’t know how many quotes I need to use, but when we are in a scaled environment, I hate that term.

I don’t think it captures [00:17:00] what the essence of the problem is, but you understand what I mean, when we are in large organizations with hundreds of teams and who knows how many, Uh, projects or streams or products that, that are moving across. So that’s, that’s where Tableau really, really shines and, and excels.

Elisa Tuijnder: You have acceleration stage. So as far as I understand, TeamFlow, you have kind of four different performance flows, or that’s how you define them. [00:17:30] Do you want to give us a quick overview of what each of those of those are and what they’re geared towards?

Steve Tendon: Well, remember my second definition that I said, we want to create an impact on performance, people and profits.

Each one of those, uh, dimensions, I, uh, I relate to a flow. So respectively, like the operational, psychological and financial flow, but also have a full flow, which is the flow of information, but it’s how, uh, people I [00:18:00] communicate. So in, uh, In short, we can say that the financial flow is, uh, how quickly the company makes money, and I measure that literally in money over time.

Uh, it determines at the end, how profitable the company is more specifically. And I don’t want to get technical, but just hint at this. So you can see, you know, the connection with Herbie more specifically. I measure this in terms of how much money [00:18:30] goes through the company. So it goes through Herbie. It’s the creation of value through the constraint that really matters.

The second dimension is the flow of operations. So how much things do we get done or more aptly, how much value are we creating? And I measure that in our operational throughput rate. Nowadays, it’s, uh, it’s common to talk about flow efficiency, which of course, uh, is much better than resource [00:19:00] efficiency.

But what I have in Tameflow is even better than that because I care about throughput efficiency, which, uh, uh, is, uh, always put in relation to the presence and the effect of the constraint in the system. We have the flow of information that is how well the company is communicating essential and relevant information.

About what matters, to whom it matters, when it matters. So now get [00:19:30] rid of all the fluff and focus only on the essence. And I measured that in, um, in the frequency of communication, the latency of, of feedback loops when people have to respond at all levels and in all directions. So it’s not only reporting upstairs, but also getting the, the managers to respond and peer to peer, of course.

And ultimately it’s well, psychological flow, which is, well, how do we keep people, uh, [00:20:00] people happy? Okay. And when I say people, I don’t mean only the, uh, the people working. I mean, everyone who is touched by the, uh, the reality of a company. So of course it is the customers. Of course it’s the stakeholders, it’s the providers and anyone else who is affected by the, the company’s existence and, uh, and operation.

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah, absolutely. That’s wonderful. So that’s also, you know, that’s where your sustainability aspect as well, I’m guessing comes in in [00:20:30] your ethical working. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So let’s save, because obviously we are happiness at work and we don’t have time for it to go through all these flaws, although they sound super interesting.

So, let’s dive a tiny little bit deeper into the psychology flow and how can companies, you know, and leaders attempt to work with this flow and improve this flow and, and what is your, what’s your approach for this?

Steve Tendon: Well, it’s a multifaceted answer and, uh, and of course it’s, it’s contextual, so it depends on what is going on in [00:21:00] the company.

But as companies start adopting the ideas of, uh, of TaintLow, uh, there are several aspects that, uh, come out of the presence of a constraint that have a huge impact. For instance, in the story of Herbie, everyone was walking behind Herbie. So we are creating like a, a tight knit group of people. One side effect of that is that Everyone else except Herbie [00:21:30] has more capacity than Herbie.

So what does this mean? Literally, when you walk behind Herbie in a knowledge work setting, it means that if you are not Herbie, you have to stop working. You have to stand still. You have to wait. The

Elisa Tuijnder: frustration that comes with that was also my

Steve Tendon: Well, the frustration, but it’s also an opportunity because that’s, uh, now in, in, uh, in the agile world, you talked about Slack and there is always like this battle between management [00:22:00] and, uh, and agile proponents on how do you justify Slack.

Um, here is the economic justification that if you subordinate to the constraint, as you say, technically, those around the constraint can take it easy. And this is a huge. Booster, because when they take it easy, they can do things that maybe make the whole environment better, make the conditions of working better.

Maybe they can attend to things that normally in the high pressure setting where [00:22:30] everyone has to perform to the maximum, no matter if they are the constraint or not, you would simply ignore. And by ignoring such things, eventually the, uh, the, uh, The fabric of the organization starts, starts to crumble because if you put everything under pressure sooner or later, the cracks will come about.

And because you’re all in the same situation, you help, you help Herbie. You also bring about this notion that there is no [00:23:00] dishonor to be Herb. As a matter of fact, you become the focal point. So everyone is there to help you. So you get into this. Mindset of helping one another. And then of course, that takes off pressure from someone who happens to be the herbie of the situation.

He knows he’s not alone. We’re in it together. Now, there is also some more technical things. When you start managing the operational flow with the [00:23:30] techniques that I have in Tameflow, for instance, one, one technique is to use a so called fever chart. Basically it’s a, it’s a red. Yellow and green signal that relate to, uh, it has nothing to do with the art, red, amber, green of, uh, of project management.

Uh, it’s, it’s close, but it’s, it’s not quite the same, but basically, uh, it’s, it is a signal of how challenged you are with respect to, to arriving to the base campaign in time to the deadline. [00:24:00] Now, Theory of Constraints teaches to try to be in the green all the time and use the other signals as, uh, as intervention signals, which is correct.

And we do that as well. But now fancy this, uh, relate this to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s theories of psychological flow and of optimal experience. You know that if you are in that balance, In the so called flow channel, you experience happiness. Yeah. So what’s this chart [00:24:30] do? Well, it gives you the opportunity to calibrate the parameters of, of your, uh, of your metrics so that you always keep the team in the yellow.

And that is like a material representation of, uh, Mihaly’s, uh, flow channel. So we can calibrate the load and the expectation on the teams. So they are just there at the edge, as we said, where they feel they are under pressure, but they can make it. They can make it. So it’s always that, [00:25:00] that dynamic situation of feeling engaged in, uh, in the work.

Uh, on other dimensions, uh, I, I often use, um, the core protocols. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the core protocols of Jim McCarty. I am not

Elisa Tuijnder: actually.

Steve Tendon: No. Oh, yeah. They also have a patterns based approach, but. It’s, uh, it’s a handful of protocols to engage in conversations and make people come, uh, come together.

When I have [00:25:30] teams where the internal team dynamics is maybe challenged, then I often resort to the core protocols. And they, uh, uh, really can unblock those situations where the atmosphere inside the team is, um, Let’s say it’s not, it’s not good. So you can unblock that, people feel much, uh, much happier.

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah.

Steve Tendon: Uh, other things, um, is to look at psychological flow triggers, which might be embedded in the environment. [00:26:00] There are many elements in the built environment that can help or go against psychological flow and therefore happiness. So creating an environment where you have the right spaces for, for Deep thinking work and other places where you can have, uh, more social activities is important.

The open space, uh, architectures that we’ve seen, uh, so many times, I think are absolutely detrimental for, uh, for a happiness where [00:26:30] everyone gets, gets alienated as a robot in a, in a box.

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah.

Steve Tendon: So that’s another element.

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah.

Steve Tendon: And, um, then, uh, I also always say, you know, let people work. So. Uh, with the, with the idea of flow of information, I tried to remove all unnecessary and meaningless meetings.

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah. So meetings are called.

Steve Tendon: Like on demand when there is a need for them. And also I don’t tend to timebox meetings. No, they go on until they [00:27:00] reach an objective and therefore you have an incentive to reaching that sooner rather than, than later. No, I hate these. Cause you

Elisa Tuijnder: want to get it done. You want it done.

Steve Tendon: Exactly. No, I hate all these meetings to have in the calendars. They all skate over 60 minutes. And if you’re done after 15 minutes, you sit there 45 minutes and then try to, to, to appear busy. Right. So that’s the kind of thing I, I, you know, I hate to

Elisa Tuijnder: say.

Steve Tendon: And last but not least, of course, um, I really tried to take care of the needs and wants of people.

So one for [00:27:30] all, you know, engineers, they hate to provide estimates. Uh, and I totally understand them. Yeah. And, uh, the, the way I, I proceed is well, by using flow metrics, you know, probabilistic forecasting. So we don’t ask engineers. provide estimates of. They don’t like, why should you force them? And we all know that they don’t work anyways.

I mean, they’re basically

Elisa Tuijnder: sticking your finger in the air and going, where’s the wind coming from? Isn’t it like often? Yes. Because you just

Steve Tendon: don’t know. Yeah. Well, I mean, there [00:28:00] are, there are techniques by which estimates can become made reliable, but they require so much extra work that normally companies become

Elisa Tuijnder: redundant.

Yes. It becomes,

Steve Tendon: it ages just too much. So if there are better ways, why not use them? And if those ways make the people happier because you don’t force them to do things they don’t want to do, why not?[00:28:30]

Elisa Tuijnder: What leads to a happy life? What are the various ways to be happy? Happiness means different things to each of us. Yet after doing extensive research, Management 3point0 founder Juergen Appelow discovered the common thread. Happiness is something we create. It is not something to achieve. It is a path you choose, not a destination to arrive at.

So many of us spend our times in pursuit of happiness. Yet instead of [00:29:00] searching for it, we need to find ways to live it, embrace it, and implement it into our daily lives. We created the 12 Steps to Happiness at Management 3point0. You can find more information and even download a free poster of the 12 Steps at management3o.


Yeah, I really enjoyed your, your economic justification of Slack and how that is actually very [00:29:30] important and, you know, makes more people more creative and gives them time and openness for, yeah, for the things that actually matter and that the things that are not always quantifiable within or within the job description.

So that’s very interesting. But one of the things that I was wondering while you were talking and also with the Herbie How do you say who is the constraint or what is the constraint? And I’m assuming they’re different for different scenarios and in different contexts and in different teams, obviously, as well.

Steve Tendon: Uh, yes, it’s, [00:30:00] uh, now finding the constraint is, uh, is, uh, a work of investigation. No doubt about that. Um, now you asked me before if TeamFlow applies to, um, only to software engineering or to other fields as well, and say it applies to other fields as well. But in particular for software engineering, uh, you are in a situation where almost in all cases, the constraint is within the software engineering organization.

Why? Because. You know, the [00:30:30] famous, uh, enormous backlogs at the front of the engineering piece. It’s so easy to get the next great idea and puts it in a backlog. So the sheer demand in terms of, uh, of ideas and desires just, um, outdoes the capacity of the engineering team. So we can start with the, well, reasonable assumption that if you are in a software engineering organization.

Then the constraint is there, and that’s where we can start to apply the use of flow [00:31:00] metrics to figure out where the constraint is. Now, I don’t want to get overly technical, but so let me tell you maybe one of my, my key, uh, key stories. That was when I said 2014 and 16, I had one of the, of the biggest, uh, biggest cases,

Elisa Tuijnder: which was,

Steve Tendon: um, a German automotive component manufacturer.

They had 8, 000 people, 4, 000 of which were engineers, and they were trying all sorts of ways to manage the [00:31:30] workload because they had, listen to this, 70, 000 people. Requests on average per month. Yeah. 70, 000 per month. So,

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah, that backlog was ginormous. Then you needed a, an additional server to hold that.

Steve Tendon: Yeah, you need like, you know, cloud storage just to, to keep track of that. So it was an enormous amount of work that was flowing through this organization. And they, uh, they were not quite able to, to figure out how to [00:32:00] manage this. Long story short with the instrumentation collection of metrics. We identified one team, 28 people, 28 out of 4, 000, that team was the herbie of the system.

So we worked with that, uh, with that team, you know, uh, uh, intensive training for like six weeks. And in that time, after that, uh, that intervention, the throughput, operational throughput of the entire organization went up by 40%. [00:32:30]

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah.

Steve Tendon: Well, that’s the kind of. Of deliver you have there. And of course, no, that the team after this was a much happier than before because they finally felt a bit of relief.

No, they, they were not overstressed because all of these requests, yes, they were still there, but they were organized. Yes. They were prioritized. They were putting relations. Now, what was possible, what was just wishful thinking and all of that. Yeah. So that’s, um, and if you think about it from a company perspective, [00:33:00] uh, if you start with the premise of trying to find the constraint, well, you know, you can avoid, for instance, these, uh, enormous multi year agile transformation, imagine having to train 4, 000 people, it costs.

It takes years and then maybe only, maybe we’ll just see some results, but here are six weeks and, uh, the problem was resolved brilliantly.

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah, that’s an example. Yeah, that’s a great example. And I sort of had this imagery in my [00:33:30] head of like, you know, almost a dam on blocking or like a bottleneck, but it’s not, it’s more than that, right?

It’s because you all become part of it. Then it’s, it’s not just. Plugging the bottleneck or, oh, no,

Steve Tendon: it’s, uh, it’s more a matter of finding the constraint and then managing the constraint and managing around the constraint. Yeah. Now, the Theater of Constraints teaches that the constraint can be literally anywhere.

It can even be in the market. And that’s the case. The startup. The startup is not selling enough because the market doesn’t have the demand. Is it ready for

Elisa Tuijnder: it yet? Yeah. [00:34:00]

Steve Tendon: Yeah. And, uh, it could be your providers, it could even be the activity of your competitor. But what’s, uh, I think is, and this goes back to the, you know, the human dimension, I think is really the constraints of all knowledge intensive organization is the attention, the attention of people and in particular, attention of managers, the higher up you go in companies.

The thinner that attention is spread, I’ll try to get a meeting with a C level executive. [00:34:30] And good luck, you know, their calendar is completely full. So this is one, uh, beneficial consequence of constraints management that you create the ability for the organization and anyone in the organization to really focus on what matters.

And if you can go to these top managers and say, you know, you, you might want to eliminate 60 percent of all your meetings because you don’t need them. Uh, if we tell you which 40 percent are our good ones, that is also another huge element. But of course, if you have happy managers know [00:35:00] that percolates downstairs as well.

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. It’s very important. It’s very important. Hey, thank you for that. Uh, I understand the concept, but it can sometimes be a massive task, I think, to, you know, find this. And then there’s all these things that come with it, uh, very useful method. But what we’d really like to do on the podcast as well is leave people.

It’s a tangible practice or with a tangible tidbit of information, something that they can kind of start practicing straight away and don’t have to have the whole C suite on board. So do you [00:35:30] have anything there that you can leave us with a smaller, simpler step that they, you know, can use to get in the flow or get the, find the flows that are maybe particularly within the psychological flow that you just described?

Steve Tendon: Well, it’s, uh, this is a tough question.

Elisa Tuijnder: For you, yeah, let’s see what

Steve Tendon: we get. Because, uh, Tameflow is, is not about, um, no tips and tricks or shortcuts.

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah, yeah.

Steve Tendon: Uh, you need to put in the, the commitment, the effort to learn about it. [00:36:00] But if you do, you will get exceptional results. And the starting point is the story I told you before, the story of Herbie.

It seems like a silly little story. But there is so much embedded in that story. I can give you four or five different. I gave you two before. There are more secrets embedded in that story that can relate to how we were. And, um, I don’t think that I am in a position to give any advice to leaders today, but I prefer to [00:36:30] nurture the skills and mindsets of the leaders of tomorrow.

Um, so, uh, if there is one thing, if you allow me to recommend to your audience, it is. is that I have this course on team leadership for Scrum Masters. And, uh, and I think that that could be a great starting point because it acts at the team level. Now notice, Tameflow is a systems thinking approach. So it looks at the whole company, but they’re at the team level.

So if you’re a Scrum Master or a team lead of, uh, other kinds of [00:37:00] teams, uh, you will get the, uh, the basics. You will learn about the, the flow metrics, how you can use flow To reason about the, the presence of the constraint, how to use that information to trigger good conversations with, uh, with management and, and build a better atmosphere with, uh, with management.

How to get the teams on board, uh, to create this unity of purpose and community of trust. It’s, uh, [00:37:30] know some people took the course, said, no, it’s, it’s great because. Not only does it help your team, but it helps you to impress on management, literally impress on management. Someone else said it’s a, it’s a, it’s a killer problem solving skills technique because we always know where to focus.

So I, I can just tell you what, what happens when you start to use Tableau, but to get into it, you, you might want to read my books or come to this course.

Elisa Tuijnder: Absolutely. Absolutely. So then for now, for our [00:38:00] listeners, what I, what I really hope that they remember is the story of Herbie and that they’re walking away with that.

And if they have enough appetite to find your books or to, to get in contact with you. So If they wanna do that, where can they find these things and how can they find you? ?

Steve Tendon: I would invite everyone to, uh, to join my community. It’s the tam flow circle, and you find it at, uh, well https, uh, column slash slash circle dot tame

Circle com. All [00:38:30] the people interested in the flow and TOC and these ideas come there and you will find lots of resources. Uh, yeah, free, free books and everything.

Elisa Tuijnder: Fantastic. I will make sure that we add that, uh, into the show notes as well, uh, so that people who are now wanting to learn more about Herbie and all these other interpretations and, and just can’t get Herbie out of their head can, uh, can find you and more like minded souls there.

So then what’s next for me? Herbie’s your best friend. Yeah, yeah. You should know him. I definitely walk away with the story now and definitely will remember [00:39:00] this and I will definitely go further into the theory of constraints as well. So thank you for that, Steve. You’ve really left me with an enormous amount of things to think about.

So again, yeah, thank you. Thank you for coming on the podcast.

Steve Tendon: It was a great pleasure and well, see you on some other channel, Friends of Herbie. Yeah, absolutely.

Elisa Tuijnder: Thank you.

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