JEDI Programming – Just Enough Design Initially

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I left a comment on the "What is Missing?" entry at the Agile-in-a-Flash blog. The author's asked the questioin "What is missing?" from the stack of Agile flashcards they are developing. I responded ...


I think the "JEDI" approach is missing (any by that, I don't mean the mantra of "use the source Luke" ;-)

I think there is something missing regarding TDD and Design. Uncle Bob's three rules of TDD (and other writings) often mislead people to think that there is ZERO design up-front, as is if NOT doing Big-Design-Up-Front (BDUF) implies that therefore there is zero up-front design (NoDUF).

This is false (and Uncle Bob has even vehemently said so in The Scatology of Agile Architecture) but how does a newcomer reconcile it with the three rules of TDD? I can't write test-code without being able to invoke the thing-under-test. I can't invoke a thing if I haven't attempted to design the interface.

If I design an interface (even for a single method/subroutine) I have to have some inkling of which class/package/module it would go in, at least INITIALLY! There is some initial amount of design I do before writing a test that is both necessary and sufficient to define "just enough" of the interface of what I want my test-case to test.

So I think that is what is missing, a card called "JEDI", for "Just Enough Design Initially."

To my knowledge, this particular definition of the JEDI acronym in agile development was first used by Stephen Palmer and other FDD luminaries at www.step-10.com and featuredrivendevelopment.com (just do a Google-search on "JEDI" AND "Just Enough Design").

I also think there is a relationship between JEDI and Eric Evan's " Domain-Driven Design (DDD), Supple Design (part of DDD), as well as *some* of the so-called "Pre-factoring". But it can be a risky, slippery-slope, so it would be great to have some guidance to help us know when we've done "Just Enough Design In-front/Initially."

I suppose JEDI is a way of straddling the "appropriate range" of risk between anticipation and adaptation. I envision some kind of graph or diagram with axes ...
  • On the left-hand side of overanticipating we have "too much too soon" and big/all up-front design.

  • All the way on the right-hand-side we have "too little too late." Here you are faced with legacy-rewrites, system re-engineering, large-scale restructuring, etc.
The problem with both extremes is the creation of technical debt:
  • One Extreme does it by adding complex structures and behaviors too early in the cone-of-uncertainty and causes too much rework to rewrite that which was not yet certain and subject to much variability.

  • The other extreme does it by sheer entropy/decay/rot that results from inattention and/or negligence
In the middle we have a delicate balance that we need to strike, and which JEDI represents: "Just enough" and "Just-in-Time." The problem is that this is a range, not a single perfect point. What makes the problem harder is that the range is different for different projects, depending on a number of factors (including scale and distribution). There is a certain amount of "pay-up-front" and "pay-later" that need to be balanced with "pay-as-you-go."

I imagine this "range" represents how to find the "sweet spot" that demarcates Just Enough Design Initially:
  • In the middle of the scale is pure refactoring. It is strictly emergent, pay as you go just-in-time by focusing ruthlessly on keeping code clean and simple.

  • Minor-to-moderate restructurings (too large to be refactorings, too small to be total re-writes) are to the right. Sometimes larger systems and/or systems constructed by multiple-teams can do a great job at refactoring and still not be able to avoid the need for minor-to-moderate restructuring, particular for aspects of the design that cut across teams and architecture and functionality.

  • Just to the left of refactoring would be so-called "pre-factoring", where you have enough experience refactoring that you are able to apply basic application of encapsulation, DRY, separation of concerns, etc. without adding premature abstraction of inessential complexity. This is hard to get right, and has risk associated with it. But it does get progressively less with the better judgment that comes experience and practice.

  • To the left of pre-factoring would be the subset of DDD known as Supple Design. And the rest of DDD would be to the left of supple-design.
Somewhere in this continuum might be "segments" corresponding to specific practices or techniques besides DDD and refactoring, such as clean code, simple/incremental design, and evolutionary architecture.

The trick of knowing the "just enough" range lies not just in experience and discipline, but also in understanding your context and your "lead-time". Lead-time in particular dictates how soon in advance you need to be able to think and anticipate (and at what level of detail). The shorter the lead/cycle-time, the less you need to anticipate and prognosticate.

So I would see JEDI as a card that somehow is able to depict this continuum between anticipation and adaptation and where these various techniques fall on it, and the factors/tradeoffs that help you identify the right "range" for yourself. (And of course there is a close relation to technical debt and the cost-of-change curve :-)

Anyone ever seen a diagram that bears any resemblance to what I'm thinking of here?

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