Agile Series No.10 – Keep It Simple!

Welcome to the tenth of twelve articles where we talk about the do’s (and some of the don’ts) of Project Managing Agile Projects.  During this series we will work our way through the 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto and talk about how it relates to you, a project manager and your project.

Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential. (Beck, 2001).

Keeping things simple is an art form. 

It seems easy, but it can take many years of practice to perfect. This principle’s concept, unlike the others, seems to be tricky for some to understand. However, it is not that difficult.

An example in which I found I was guilty of, is to do with emails. In my position, I receive emails all day, every day. Which meant that I was constantly switching from whatever I was working on, to my emails, and back again throughout the day. This really affected my productivity.  I simplified! I now keep my email closed throughout the day and only check at certain times. This enabled me to finish the task I was working on and “maximise the amount of work not done”.

Another example of this can be seen in code comments where the comments can be as large as the code itself!  Now, as a project manager, I fully support (and expect!) comments in the code as this enhances the design, however, the code should be limited to simple explanations that any future developer could understand.

When building your project try and eliminate waste. Do the basics and do them well.  Other examples of maximizing the work not done include:

  • Breakdown long meetings into smaller more focused meetings. Have a focus for the meeting and stick to it.
  • Collaborate as often as possible with the developers. Keep ‘simple design’ as the focus.
  • Exclude any work that is not important – put it on a Backlog for further refinement.
  • Review everything that has been completed with the aim to simplify them if possible.
  • Create a ‘work not done bucket’ .
  • Control the work environment as much as possible by reducing interruptions.
  • With every decision made ask yourself, is it adding value to the project.

If you implement as many of these things as possible, you will quickly see a very noticeable improvement in the team’s ability to complete goals.  Remember, simplicity does not always mean a thing is not complicated, it just means that features can be implemented for less work which creates extra value for customers.

Next week we change the focus to teams. Is your team self-organising? If not, why not? Those are the teams that produce the best results!


Beck, K. B. (2001). Agile Manifesto. Retrieved from Agile Manifesto

Madhavi, L. (2015, July 1). The Art of Maximizing Work Not Done. Retrieved from Agileconnection

Natarajan, A. (2019, April 17). Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done – is essential! Retrieved from PM Power Consulting

Qazi, I. (2018, April 6). Reflection on Priniple 10 – Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amounmt of work not done – is essential. Retrieved from M Code