Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Eight Agile Wastes of Hanukah: #1 Low value features

Tonight marks the start of the Jewish festival of Hanukah, commemorating in part an ancient miracle in which oil supplies for the eternal flame in the Temple of Jerusalem were running perilously low: there was only enough oil for one day, but that oil lasted eight days — long enough for fresh supplies to arrive — an ancient miracle!

In a modern interpretation Hanukah can be seen as a conservation festival, drawing attention to reducing waste, encouraging recycling, caring for the environment, and so forth.

In this spirit I am going to do a twist on the idea of publishing an advent calendar by recounting "eight wastes" of Agile, one day and one waste at a time.

Agile Waste #1: Low value features

No-one adds product features that everyone regards as low value, but all too often your (or my) bright idea doesn't turn out to be all that great in retrospect. "It seemed like a good idea at the time" is a common refrain, but after the fact is too late, and the damage is done.

Low value features are wasteful in several ways:
  1. They steal time from designing, developing, marketing, and selling other, better features.
  2. They increase product complexity, increasing maintenance costs
  3. Their eventual removal is also costly

What to do instead

The Pareto Principle (80/20 rule) suggests that roughly 20% of features are responsible for around 80% of product value. Those are the features to build, but it's not necessarily easy to figure out which they are!
  1. Apply strategies like Design Thinking and Lean Startup to validate ideas and build prototypes and minimal versions rather than naïvely pursuing a grandiose vision. Then iterate like crazy.
  2. Listen to your customers and not the HIPPO (Highest Paid Person in the Office). Use techniques like Hallway usability testing, Customer Research, and A/B testing to validate your hypothesis that a feature really adds value.
  3. Explore techniques like user story-mapping, story-writing, service-blueprinting, and impact mapping that help with contextualisation and prioritisation.


The idea of relentlessly identifying and reducing waste comes from Lean Manufacturing, adapted for software development most notably by Mary and Tom Poppendieck.


  1. Great article Dan

  2. Nice read Dan - good point about listening to customers and not the HIPPO... it does take courage to do this and go against their view and instead focus on what's important for the customer.