Friction Lab

An Advanced Workshop for Product Teams

You have great software engineers. They work on autonomous product teams that deliver frequently. The products are doing well. But -- there is always a But. Things could be better. Something is frustrating team members or disappointing customers or slowing things down. What is it?

Friction. No matter how well things are going, there will always be friction. Consumers experience friction when using your product. Friction delays a team's response to a product request. Friction makes the code difficult to change. Differing expectations create friction among team members. Competing goals create friction between teams.

The purpose of this workshop is to identify the largest source of friction for each team in attendance -- the biggest thing that keeps team members from doing their best work -- and come up with a team plan for reducing that source of friction.

This workshop assumes that teams attending the lab are familiar with lean principles and agile practices, and have worked to implement them. In the lab, team members learn a pattern for identifying and reducing friction that they can use again and again to improve the way their work works.

You will Learn:

  • Why friction is a good measure of a system's performance
  • How to map your customer's journey / your development process
  • Typical points of friction and how other product teams have confronted them
    • Causes of friction in the customer journey
    • Why feedback-driven teams engineer better solutions
    • How Design Sprints are used to gain insight
    • The cognitive biases of teams
  • A reference process for modern digital systems
  • Solving problems across teams
    • The tension between autonomy and allignment
    • When a Team-of-teams is needed and how to make it work
  • Why and how to visualize the future as a basis for action
  • How to attack friction as a part of your team's regular activities

More Information:

Essay on Friction.

This lab is designed to be a two day workshop aimed at teams.
However, a shortened version may be offered as a one day workshop.

Learn from the Experts:

Learn first-hand from thought-leaders Mary and Tom Poppendieck how to move to the far side of paradox and a lean mindset. Mary and Tom have pioneered the application of Lean Thinking to software development and documented their principles in books (below).

This lab is offered either privately or through partners who sponsor a public workshop. For additional information on Friction Lab, please contact us at


Identifying Team Friction

  • How does your team decide what to do next?
  • How do workflow problems resolved?
  • Does the code base get in the way?
  • Breakout: Identify the Biggest Source of Friction
  • Framing the Present

  • Flow vs. Friction
  • Breakout: Journey Map or Value Stream Map
  • Lessons from Others

  • Design Sprints
  • A reference process
  • Cognitive Biases of Teams
  • Breakout: Is there Conformity Bias on my team?
  • Beyond the Single Team

  • Team-of-Teams
  • Shared Goals
  • Situational Awareness
  • Breakout: Autonomy vs. Alignment
  • Framing the Future

  • Know how the work works
  • Work backward from the future
  • Breakout: Visualize the Future
  • The Learning Organization

  • The Improvement Kata
  • Breakout: What to do Tomorrow




    • Ask the Right Questions
    • Results are Not the Point
    • Concept to Cash
    • An Agile Toolkit

    The Lean Mindset:

    Ask the Right Questions

    What company doesn't want energized workers, delighted customers, genuine efficiency, and breakthrough innovation? The Lean Mindset shows how lean companies really work, and how a lean mindset is the key to creating stunning products and delivering amazing services.

    Leading Lean Software Development:

    Results are not the Point

    Building on their breakthrough bestsellers Lean Software Development: Concept to Cash and Implementing Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit, Mary and Tom Poppendieck's latest book shows software leaders and team members exactly how to drive high-value change throughout a software organization – and make it stick.

    Implementing Lean Software Development:

    From Concept to Cash

    This book draws on the Poppendiecks' unparalleled experience helping development organizations optimize the entire software value stream. You'll discover the right questions to ask, the key issues to focus on, and techniques proven to work. The authors present case studies from leading-edge software organizations, and offer practical exercises for jumpstarting your own Lean initiatives.

    Lean Software Development

    An Agile Toolkit

    Lean Software Development shows software professionals how to achieve breakthrough quality, savings, speed, and business value by adapting the seven "lean" principles that have already revolutionized manufacturing and R&D. Drawing on 25+ years' experience leading enterprise projects, the authors show how to use these principles to create agile processes that work - because they're optimized for your environment.