Small work chunks

Increase your development team's productivity, quality, and happiness

July 20, 2020

programmingproductivity

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3 min read

We’ve been experimenting as a team with shipping the smallest increments of value possible. We are loving the results so far. Work is more enjoyable, work is higher quality, and more work gets done. Here are some of the reasons I think are behind this:

Customer value

Small work chunks ensure you’re providing constant value to your customers. By breaking things down, you deliver value to your customers more consistently and more often. Shipping an increment of value once it’s done captures a massive amount of extra value that compounds over time. Customers love software teams that ship often.

Feedback

If you ship smaller stuff, you can get your customers' feedback on that stuff sooner. You can then apply that feedback earlier, and make a better product long term. All the improvements made due to early feedback compound to create enormous extra value for your customers.

Higher quality

Smaller tickets are higher quality work on average. Since your pull requests are smaller, they’re easier for your developers to code review. There is less friction involved with reviewing (No putting off that massive code review), and better quality feedback will be given in each review. In a large code review, people skip lower priority feedback to avoid feedback exhaustion. Smaller chunks of work (and smaller code changes) avoid this issue, leading to more thorough reviews.

Smaller chunks of work let developers focus in on one problem at a time, which means solutions are of higher quality. A piece that might have been a secondary consideration if bundled up in a larger body of work becomes the primary focus, so it’s given more deliberate thought and planning.

More work gets done

Your developers are more productive with smaller chunks. It’s motivating to see your work consistently get shipped. It’s satisfying to continuously drag items to the “done” column. Smaller tickets have less friction associated with them. Developers are happier working on smaller, better defined chunks. All of these things add up to more work shipped overall, with less re-work.

The next time you're dividing up work for your team, consider the smallest possible increment of value and break it down as far as you can. You've gone too far if shipping a piece doesn't add value on its own.

Try it. I think you and your team will love the results.

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