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The Art of Simplicity and How to Save Time and Energy

The art of simplicity in software development is an overlooked idea that can save you time and energy
Use the art of simplicity and make your life easier. Software and product development work is easier to complete and you will see the value sooner when kept simple.

Isn’t creating the right software products hard work? Just delivering the right thing is a challenge. Without even trying to do this to a schedule. Change after change. Update after update. Only to miss delivery of important features. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just cut out some of the work? Enabling you to focus on just the priority work. Reduce the complexity of the work, to enable completion of the work in Agile development.

Use the art of simplicity to transform your delivery! Because simpler is always better.

Table of Contents

Art of Simplicity — What it Means

It is really about simplifying work for the Agile team. Finding the key pieces of work and doing those first. Avoid unnecessary extra work. Avoiding complexity where you can. Adding work that is not needed only slows the team down. It also reduces the value of the work done by the team. Removing complexity can help a team speed up delivery. It also increases value. This is by doing just work adds value. That value isn’t watered down with extra. Removing extra work increases business value delivered.

Avoid watering down the value of your work

The art of simplicity is about knowing that we can’t do everything. Then, organize the work to what we can do and do well. It is the practice of removing lesser priorities. In order to focus on top priority work. It is the mindset that simpler is better, and leveraging that mindset to go execute on work.

Art of Simplicity — Working the Right Priorities

It’s also about taking on the right things at the right times. The selection of work, according to priorities, plays a large part. Prioritizing incremental, value add items, in the right order. This will consistently add to a product. The sum of the individual work items will build up the software. Delivering those work items in a careful order helps to get that value faster.

It’s Also About Controlling the Work

The art of simplicity includes an aspect of controlling the work. Controlling the work is about scope control. You need to keep a mindful eye on increasing scope. Make sure the scope doesn’t increase out of control. Allowing you to keep the focus on priority items. Items that add great value. This is a balance you must maintain between being flexible to changing needs, and out of control scope that is near impossible to deliver.

Controlling the work is also about incremental delivery. Which is about delivering the priority items first and continually evaluating what needs to be done next. When scope does expand, often the items can be done as follow up items. Allowing the current work to progress, without adding to it. Completing it, and moving on to the next priority item. Incremental delivery is a powerful idea and key piece in the art of simplicity.

Art of Simplicity — Avoid Comprehensive Features

I have often found myself thinking about all the things a product could do. It can be easy to get carried away with features. There are often new and interesting features that can be added. “Cool” items, that the team likes and wants to add. It’s important to be disciplined on these and add the priority items first. Don’t overbuild and add features that are not value add. Even if they are cool, or popular ideas.

The comprehensive suite of features slows down value delivery. The Cadillac of features isn’t necessary for most scenarios. Delivering the priority value work first, without tacking on additional items, is part of the art of simplicity. Remove uncertainty and complexity from the work when you remove work that isn’t the top need. Or in other words, always focus on the top need first.

Its a mix of art and science

To me, there is no set guide or rules that can explain how to simplify work. It’s a balance you must find, between working the top priorities and waiting on the next priorities. You must use some intuition about what to take on vs what you can wait on. It’s about simplifying work, to the lowest common denominator. Delivering on that, and then moving on to the next thing.

I would call the art of simplicity is a mix of art and science. Where the right mix can help you build great things and quickly. The art of simplicity is both art and science. It does take some practice to master. Simplify the work to enable yourself to execute on the work. If you do, it can lead to great things in agile software development.

Practices that help with this

Incremental delivery — remember to work on prioritized pieces of work. As much as possible, avoid large portions of work. Break up the large work into smaller pieces. Part of Agile practices and heavily reliant on simpler and smaller pieces of work.

Vertical slicing — to help give pieces of work that add value on delivery. Vertical slicing is delivering portions of updates that are standalone. Meaning that they work on their own. When able, if you can deliver work in this manner, you gain value quickly.

Don’t overreach — in order to keep work manageable. Focus on the prioritized work and don’t get swept up in non-value-add work. If new ideas and changes will add value, often they can be prioritized as the next work. Treat them as such, finish your current work and then come back to them.

Focus to finish — is about keeping thought on the task at hand. Not expanding or drifting to other work. Highly Agile teams remember this concept and use it well.

Use the Art of Simplicity to take delivery to the next level

Master the art of simplicity to enable your work. Remember the issues with past development processes, like Waterfall software development. Mired in the complexity of trying to deliver all things at once, it takes forever to complete the work. Leverage the contrast of that idea. The simpler portions of work, that you can go and do, and do quickly. The art of simplicity can be learned. Practice this art, and take your delivery to the next level!

Additional content and books to help with the art of simplicity in Agile

Another great piece of information on Vertical Slicing is available here.