Here are 3 Work Situations Where Going With the Flow is the Best Move

Three woman looking at a tablet at work.


Anouare Abdou for Hive
Anouare Abdou for Hive
Failing to plan is planning to fail, they say. Maybe in some cases, but there are work situations when going with the flow is the best move.
Takis Athanassiou, a business consultant, author, and trainer with more than 25 years of experience in the area of human capital development, personal and professional growth, and productivity, says that all leaders and teams should be aware that there are different states of work – and some are better supported by flow instead of structure.
“For parts of a project that need rigid scheduling and on-time operations, you should adopt a formal project management approach. For project phases like brainstorming, ideation, coding, product development, and growth hacking, a ‘going with the flow’ approach may provide better results,” he says.
Some projects flourish in environments where going with the flow is encouraged, and some get stifled. The same can be said about people and their work styles. Whether a “go with the flow” approach will benefit productivity and performance basically depends on the type of project you are working with and the people who are working on it.
With that in mind, why not pay attention to your team and projects and identify where you could be going with the flow for more impact? To inspire you, below are three common scenarios where it’s a good idea to loosen up your planning.

1. Cross-functional and highly collaborative environment.

Dustin Ray, Chief Growth Officer and co-CEO at Incfile experienced the downsides of a lack of flexibility first-hand. He chose to implement a go-with-the-flow type of culture, but the reason it worked so well was that it was a highly collaborative and inclusive environment.
“Our metrics showed that when flexibility was missing or there was not enough of it, it negatively affected the flow of the company’s operations,” he says. Absenteeism was on the rise, and employee engagement decreased. “Employees wouldn’t participate because they felt disrespected and belittled. And, as a result, the end-of-year goal was missed.”
The company implemented a pod system – each pod is a cross-functional team composed of people with various skill sets and job functions. “This encourages cross-training, fluidity within the pods and fosters the culture of ‘each one, teach one.’ There’s no room for rigidity. The communal aspect makes it easier for individual, team, and company-wide goals to be accomplished. This strategy has such a positive influence that our profit margin has increased by 275% over the last year,” says Ray.
“It gave employees firsthand knowledge of how other departments function. They learned to rely on each other as a team. The competition to be in charge disappeared because each employee felt they had buy-in and felt a sense of pride in their work.”
So if you have a cross-functional team or you’re interested in building one, going with the flow may just help you reach your goals.

2. Creative projects with teams who take ownership.

Netflix is famous for its culture, which includes lots of freedom (for a while, unlimited leave was a thing there) combined with lots of responsibility. This is a magical combo. Do you have team members who enjoy having the free reign to work how they want yet take ownership of results without needing to be told what to do? If so, and if you are working on a creative project such as building a new brand, going with the flow might be a great move.
“Select people that can work effectively in a less structured environment and provide tangible results. The only thing you will need to do is to provide general rules and guidelines, and check on the results providing feedback only when needed,” says Athanassiou.

3. Building a startup from the ground up.

Startups in their early phases are perhaps the best example of environments where going with the flow is more beneficial than following a plan, adds Athanassiou. Rigid processes may actually slow down a small team who is still figuring out what the best strategies and workflows are. Not going with the flow in a startup can cost you rapid growth and innovation. Instead of trying to run an organization that has not yet reached maturity like an established corporation, lean into the benefits of going with the flow.
This article originally appeared in Hive — the world's first democratically built productivity platform. Learn more at

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for going with the flow at work? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!