Do Less

I recently wrote a post called 10 Things Executives Need To Do Differently (In Agile).  I also presented on this a couple of weeks ago at the Agile Australia conference.

Like many things on this list, the first of the 10 things is easy to say and very hard to do.  It’s a key mantra from Lean thinking – “Do Less”.

There is overhead, and therefore waste, in task switching.  And there is also more value in delivering something earlier, rather than progressing multiple things and having them all partially complete and taking longer to finish.

Here is a deliberately simplistic example of why it *pays* to do less

Let’s say you have 3 projects.  Each project takes 3 months effort to complete.  Each project delivers a value of $10,000 in month 1, increasing by $10,000 each month until it plateaus at $50,000 per month.

Scenario 1 is that all 3 projects are progressed in parallel, which is what usually happens, especially in larger organisations.  No value would be realised until the end of 9 months.  In reality it might also take longer than that, due to the inefficiency of task switching.

Scenario 2 is that you complete each of the projects in turn, concentrating fully on each project until it is finished.  After month 3, project 1 starts accumulating value.  After month 6, project 2 starts accumulating value.  After month 9, project 3 is also delivered, no later than in the previous scenario.

Using this simple example, cumulatively we have managed to achieve a lot more value in scenario 2 where each project is completed in turn.  We also have the benefit of faster speed to market for the first 2 projects, which could potentially give us the edge over our competitors and allow us to establish our market position first.

Now let’s look at the numbers for year 1:

  • Scenario 1 accumulates benefits of $180,000
  • Scenario 2 accumulates benefits of $610,000

That’s a massive difference by any standards!  Over 330% more value.

It’s such a simple concept.  And logically it’s undebatable really.  But we all seem to fall into the same common trap.  The trap that we need to show everyone progress, so we end up doing too much at once, even if it delivers less value overall for our organisation.

Maybe this explanation might help you to convince others, because I’m sure in larger organisations you can add a zero or two to the above numbers!

And imagine all the resourcing headaches and prioritisation issues that go away when the team is allowed to concentrate on each project in turn.  Bliss!

If there’s one thing an executive can do to help their teams the most, it’s provide them with the opportunity to focus.


agile executive - do less

Leave a Reply

What is 3 + 3 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is:
Please do this simple sum so I know you are human:)

There are 101 ways to approach anything.
To find the best way, sometimes you need expert help

What People Say

“Kelly revolutionised the way our digital department operated. A true advocate of agile principles, he quickly improved internal communication within our teams and our internal clients by aligning our business and creating a much enhanced sense of transparency in the decisions the business was making. Kelly also introduced a higher sense of empowerment to the development teams...”


“Kelly’s a leading program director with the ability to take charge from day one and keep strong momentum at both a program and project level driving prioritisation, resourcing and budgeting agendas. Kelly operates with an easy-going style and possesses a strong facilitation skill set. From my 5 months experience working with Kelly, I would recommend Kelly to program manage large scale, complex, cross company change programs both from a business and IT perspective.”


“Kelly is an extremely talented and visionary leader. As such he manages to inspire all around him to achieve their best. He is passionate about agile and has a wealth of experience to bring to bear in this area. If you're 'lucky' he might even tell you all about his agile blog. Above all this, Kelly is great fun to work with. He is always relaxed and never gets stressed - and trust me, he had plenty of opportunity here! If you get the chance to work with Kelly, don't pass it up.”


“Kelly is an Agile heavy-weight. He came in to assess my multi-million $ Agile development program which wasn’t delivering the right throughput. He interviewed most of the team and made some key recommendations that, when implemented, showed immediate results. I couldn’t ask for more than that except he’s a really nice guy as well.”


“Kelly and I worked together on a very large project trying to secure a new Insurer client. Kelly had fantastic commercial awareness as well as his technical expertise. Without him I would never had secured this client so I owe a lot to him. He is also a really great guy!”


“Kelly came to the department and has really made a huge impact on how the department communicates, collaborates and generally gets things done. We were already developing in an agile way, but Kelly has brought us even more into alignment with agile and scrum best practices, being eager to share information and willing to work with us to change our processes rather than dictate how things must be done. He is highly knowledgable about agile development (as his active blog proves) but his blog won't show what a friendly and knowledgeable guy he is. I highly recommend Kelly to anyone looking for a CTO or a seminar on agile/scrum practices - you won't be disappointed!”


“Kelly was a great colleague to work with - highly competent, trustworthy and generally a nice bloke.”


“Kelly was engaged as a Program Director on a complex business and technology transformation program for Suncorp Commercial Insurance. Kelly drew on his key capabilities and depth of experience to bring together disparate parties in a harmonised way, ensuring the initiate and concept phases of the program were understood and well formulated. Excellent outcome in a very short time frame. ”


“I worked with Kelly on many projects at IPC and I was always impressed with his approach to all of them, always ensuring the most commercially viable route was taken. He is great at managing relationships and it was always a pleasure working with him.”


“I worked with Kelly whilst at Thoughtworks and found him to be a most inspiring individual, his common-sense approach coupled with a deep understanding of Agile and business makes him an invaluable asset to any organisation. I can't recommend Kelly enough.”


“Kelly was a brilliant CTO and a great support to me in the time we worked together. I owe Kelly a great deal in terms of direction and how to get things done under sometimes difficult circumstances. Thanks Kelly.”