Agile Principle 10 – Maximize work NOT done!

Posted on February 13, 2011 by


The tenth principle of the Agile manifesto may be my favorite one – simplicity, the art of maximizing the amount of work NOT done. Too often methodologies, frameworks and process improvements get mired down in heavy process and documentation.  It’s a balancing act. It’s important to be neither too much, nor too little – just right (like the three bears!).

3 bears

Process that's just right, not too big, small, hot or cold!

I’ll contrast this Agile principle with a framework that’s often perceived to be process laden.

The Capability Maturity Model Integrated (CMMI®) provides five levels of software development maturity.  Those levels are:

  1. Initial (chaotic, ad hoc, individual heroics).
  2. Managed – the process is managed in accordance with agreed metrics.
  3. Defined – the process is defined as a standard business process
  4. Quantitatively managed
  5. Optimizing – process management includes deliberate process optimization/improvement.

Attaining level 2 or higher on the CMMI maturity model can involve maximizing process work that is done.  A rare organization is both Agile and fully process optimized.  Those organizations can look to trends in Lean process development to strip out needless and non-value added processes and fully understand those processes that still exist.  An organization can be Agile and CMMI Level 2-5!

For example in software design, if a shared repository exists with reference point to a network directory, internal website, Documentum, Microsoft Sharepoint, etc, avoid the trap of managing the design changes through email.  Use the document management tool.  Avoid an orphan, rogue review email chain.

Think about simplicity – what can you do to streamline your processes, how can you do it and then “get it done”!

Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount
of work not done–is essential.

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