Managing flow is fundamental to continuous development, particularly in knowledge intensive work activities such as software development. However, while numerous articles describe flow tools and practice there is little research on their application in context. This is a significant limitation given that software development is a highly complex and socially embedded activity. This research applies activity theory (AT) to examine the adoption of flow techniques by using the multiple-case method in two companies. AT is particularly pertinent in this study as it identifies contradictions, which manifest themselves as problems such as errors or a breakdown of communication in the organisation and congruencies between flow techniques and the development context and indeed contradictions between components of flow techniques themselves. Rather than view contradictions as a threat to flow or as an argument to abandon, a theoretical contribution of this study is that it shows how contradictions and congruencies can be used to reflect, learn, and identify new ways of structuring and enacting the flow activity. It also provides an immediate practical contribution by identifying a set of lessons drawn from the cases studied that may be applicable in future implementations of flow techniques. (C) 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.