The first step to avoid over-engineering in agile scrum is to – you guessed it – have a dialogue. Come to a mutual understanding with your team about the ways in which you can work smarter, not harder. It won’t be hard to persuade them.
One suggestion is to introduce the Pareto Principle or 80/20 rule. The 80/20 rule dictates that 80% of the value can be realised with just 20% effort when invested the right way. Therefore, teasing out the remaining 80% of the effort will only unlock around 20% of the remaining value–time and effort that could’ve been spent elsewhere.
Have an upfront conversation on this with the whole team and discuss how you can apply this rule to the level of fidelity in the work.
“Combatting gold plating is an important tool to help you improve your pace and solve for the user’s needs”
By the time you’re planning and refining work items with your scrum team, you should have active and agreed definitions of a ‘ready’ work item. Remind your team of this agreed definition so that they can hold each other accountable if they start over-preparing items before they are pulled into a sprint.
The same goes for your agreed definition of ‘done’, and the level of quality you’re happy with before the item can be classified as done. The definition of done describes, not the minimum, but THE level of quality and fidelity that the item must meet.
Active use of ready and done is another key tool to ensure you’re only polishing work to the agreed level, and not beyond. Please see my previous posts on the best ways to come to an agreed definition of ready and a definition of done.
As a team you’ll also need to accept that the fidelity of the work will change throughout the lifecycle of the product. That is to say, as the product develops, the level of fidelity should go from low to higher along with the overall quality.
At the beginning of the product’s life, you should be looking to establish product market fit. The team will produce low fidelity pieces of work to test assumptions and get feedback on the value proposition. Once the product becomes more established, they will produce higher fidelity work to meet the high expectations of users–however be mindful not to aim too high, particularly with new features.
If you find it difficult to determine the right level of fidelity for your position in the product life-cycle, the safest bet is to treat everything as a minimum viable product (MVP). That means no matter which stage of the product’s development your team are working on, they execute the work at the lowest fidelity level necessary to achieve the desired outcome.
I hope the video and tips above help you to combat the all-too-familiar desire to gold-plate, both in refinement and during the sprint iteration. From here, I’d advise you to watch part two of my tips for avoiding gold-plating and how to stop over-engineering in agile scrum.
If you have any questions or topics you’d like me to cover, leave a comment below or send me a message through my website. Thanks for reading. See you next time!
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