Lean Principle #4 – Defer Commitment

This content is syndicated from by Kelly Waters. To view the original post in full, click here.

Lean Software Development Principles 4 - Defer Commitment.Continuing with my series about the 7 key principles of lean software development, here are my comments on Lean Principle #4 - Defer Commitment.

I'm not sure I really like the name of this one. It could easily be misunderstood. It doesn't mean you should put off committing to anything indefinitely, or defer all decisions - that would obviously be a very bad idea.

What it does mean, is decide as late as possible, particularly for decisions that are irreversible, or at least will be impractical to reverse. Timebox critical decisions for the latest point they can be made without causing problems.

Obviously it is also important not too leave decisions too late. This can delay the team and make projects difficult. But, the later you can safely leave critical decisions, the more information you will have available to make the right decision when the time comes.

Deferring irreversible decisions means you keep your options open for as long as possible. By the time the decision needs to be made, there is every chance that you will know more about which of those options is the best route to take. It also gives you time to potentially explore the different options in more depth and experiment, helping to come to the right conclusion.

In areas of complexity or uncertainty, where things are very likely to change, this is especially important.

In areas like this, as well as deciding as late as possible, you should also try to architect your solution to be flexible, in order to make fewer decisions impractical to reverse.

Another example of deciding as late as possible in agile development methods is Sprint Planning, or iteration planning. In agile, you decide what features to include in each iteration and analyse them just in time for them to be developed.

Keeping decisions about features and the development of those features close together helps to ensure that the right product is delivered, because it leaves less room for change.

In more traditional project management methods, in between the specification and any particular features being developed, there is a much longer period of time when change can occur. Changes in requirements, changes to the underlying system, changes in technologies, changes in people (either the product owner or the development team), changes in direction, or of course changes in the market.

Deciding too early, you run the very likely risk that something significant will have changed, meaning your end product might meet the spec, but it might still be the wrong product! This is one reason why so many projects fail.

So, try (within reason) to architect your solution so that fewer commitments are irreversible. And defer commitment on irreversible decisions to the latest point possible.


7 Key Principles of Lean Software Development:

1. Eliminate Waste
2. Build Quality In
3. Create Knowledge
4. Defer Commitment
5. Deliver Fast
6. Respect People
7. Optimise The Whole


Photo by ryanrocketship

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

6 + 18 =

There are 101 ways to do anything.
To find the best way, sometimes you need expert help

What People Say

“Kelly revolutionised the way our digital department operated. A true advocate of agile principles, he quickly improved internal communication within our teams and our internal clients by aligning our business and creating a much enhanced sense of transparency in the decisions the business was making. Kelly also introduced a higher sense of empowerment to the development teams...”


“Kelly came to the department and has really made a huge impact on how the department communicates, collaborates and generally gets things done. We were already developing in an agile way, but Kelly has brought us even more into alignment with agile and scrum best practices, being eager to share information and willing to work with us to change our processes rather than dictate how things must be done. He is highly knowledgable about agile development (as his active blog proves) but his blog won't show what a friendly and knowledgeable guy he is. I highly recommend Kelly to anyone looking for a CTO or a seminar on agile/scrum practices - you won't be disappointed!”


“I worked with Kelly on many projects at IPC and I was always impressed with his approach to all of them, always ensuring the most commercially viable route was taken. He is great at managing relationships and it was always a pleasure working with him.”


“Kelly is an extremely talented and visionary leader. As such he manages to inspire all around him to achieve their best. He is passionate about agile and has a wealth of experience to bring to bear in this area. If you're 'lucky' he might even tell you all about his agile blog. Above all this, Kelly is great fun to work with. He is always relaxed and never gets stressed - and trust me, he had plenty of opportunity here! If you get the chance to work with Kelly, don't pass it up.”


“Kelly was engaged as a Program Director on a complex business and technology transformation program for Suncorp Commercial Insurance. Kelly drew on his key capabilities and depth of experience to bring together disparate parties in a harmonised way, ensuring the initiate and concept phases of the program were understood and well formulated. Excellent outcome in a very short time frame. ”


“Kelly and I worked together on a very large project trying to secure a new Insurer client. Kelly had fantastic commercial awareness as well as his technical expertise. Without him I would never had secured this client so I owe a lot to him. He is also a really great guy!”


“Kelly’s a leading program director with the ability to take charge from day one and keep strong momentum at both a program and project level driving prioritisation, resourcing and budgeting agendas. Kelly operates with an easy-going style and possesses a strong facilitation skill set. From my 5 months experience working with Kelly, I would recommend Kelly to program manage large scale, complex, cross company change programs both from a business and IT perspective.”


“Kelly was a brilliant CTO and a great support to me in the time we worked together. I owe Kelly a great deal in terms of direction and how to get things done under sometimes difficult circumstances. Thanks Kelly.”


“Kelly was a great colleague to work with - highly competent, trustworthy and generally a nice bloke.”


“I worked with Kelly whilst at Thoughtworks and found him to be a most inspiring individual, his common-sense approach coupled with a deep understanding of Agile and business makes him an invaluable asset to any organisation. I can't recommend Kelly enough.”


“Kelly is an Agile heavy-weight. He came in to assess my multi-million $ Agile development program which wasn’t delivering the right throughput. He interviewed most of the team and made some key recommendations that, when implemented, showed immediate results. I couldn’t ask for more than that except he’s a really nice guy as well.”



To explore how we can help you, please get in touch