Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Making Things Smaller

Often, when people talk about minimum viable product or story splitting we hear the question

"but how can I make this smaller?"

I'm going to show a very simple, powerful and yet often overlooked strategy for doing this.

Use smaller numbers

If your scenario has numbers in it make them smaller. You can do this in 2 ways depending on what you are trying to accomplish.

Minimum Viable Product

When you are trying to get to the smallest thing start your numbers near 0 or 1.

Here are some examples:
 "This report should do 5 things" -> "This report should do 1 thing"
 "Get data from 3 sources" -> "Get data from 1 source"
 "The UI changes these 8 things" -> "First we will change this 1 UI feature"
"We check in code every 8 hours" -> "We check in code at least once an hour"

Sometimes people 'hide' the numbers
 "Handle English, Spanish & French" = "Handle 3 languages" -> "Handle 1 Language"

Also, remember that programmers tend to think in terms of only 3 numbers: 0, 1 & many
 "Save directories" -> "Save many directories" -> "Save 1 Directory"

This also creates a very nice step from 1 to many of 1. In programmer that is:

"int postalCode = 90210"  -> "int[] postalCodes = {90210}"

Minimum Viable Change

When coaching you usually want to go the opposite direction so that the change is less noticeable and easier to absorb without conflict.

 "Our sprints are 4 weeks" -> "Our sprints are 3 weeks" -> "Our sprints are 2 weeks" -> "Our sprints our 1 week" ->  "We release weekly" -> "We release daily"

 "Our Build has 9 manual steps" -> "Our build has 8 manual steps"
Sometimes this shows up as negative numbers:
"No teams are writing tests" = "8 teams aren't writing tests" -> "7 Teams aren't writing tests" = "1 team started writing tests"

The Point is... if you start making a habit of looking for numbers in your stories and processes you will see them everywhere and then they are easier to reduce.