Minimalist Agile

Mar 16, 2021  ·  Sam Laing

Minimalist Agile

I have been an agile practitioner for a while now and every year I learn new things and add practices and ideas to my tool belt. I have hundreds of these. The agile alliance has this Subway map of practices and I know there are MANY more out there.


In the last 3 years I have been embracing minimalism in my life and practices and so I wondered what minimalist agile might look like.


Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Minimalism allows you to make decisions more consciously, more deliberately. Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom. (Taken from https://www.theminimalists.com/minimalism/)


It can be overwhelming to a newbie deciphering all the agile noise and figure out the essence of agile - and of course every person will have their own definition of “agile”.


I used to fall back on the Agile Manifesto, at 20 years old, it has stood the test of time, but I have found that it is too software focused for the majority of teams and people I work with now. Then there is the Modern Agile Principles, which is more relevant.


So what from agile would I consider to be minimalist? What helps me make decisions and allows me to focus on what’s important?


For me, this principle from the Agile Manifesto stood out:


Simplicity--the art of maximizing the amount of work not done--is essential. And that led me to thinking about the practice I use the most and always teach to others: Story Maps.


But I figure I should interrogate the original manifesto and see what happens.


Individuals and interactions, Customer collaboration and Responding to change all made me think of: Respect, listening, delicious attention and Time to Think practices. Understanding other people’s ‘why’ and being curious as opposed to judging. Really just applying these in each and every conversation and meeting will go a long way to making things flow smoothly.


Working Software and Responding to change made me think of: small delivery often and focusing on what is truly important. And this led me straight back to Story Maps.


But Story Maps come with some clutter too. The word Story isn’t really known outside the agile world (well, with the meaning we agilists intend). The whole MVP thing is so misunderstood and debated even in the agile world - do we dare introduce others to it?


Stripping out the jargon of ‘story’ and ‘MVP’ we are left with a simple skeleton and work broken down and prioritized. Introducing a beautiful constraint of time or money helps us to get to the bare minimum for delivery.


This is minimal and simple and this helps make decisions and focus on what is important.



Done! After a few hours of deliberating and thinking deeply I have have come up with what Minimalist Agile means to me:

Pay delicious attention to each other and use maps for work.

This helps make decisions, and focus on what is important. It is also free of jargon and can be used in all areas of business or school or family. It happens to also be the thing I usually start doing as an Agile Coach with a new client. What are the first things you do at a new client? Maybe that is your minimalist agile definition?

Categories: Agile Coaching.