Small is still beautiful

There was an interesting email discussion today at a client where I am engaged in a process improvement initiative. The current-state process resembles a hybrid linear plus time-box model, according to the taxonomy of process models I suggested in an earlier post. They do the iterations only for the programming work, and the rest of it is linear. Their goals for improvement are to improve throughout, reduce lead time, increase predictability, and reduce defects.

A portion of the discussion dealt with the size and scope of work items. It occurred to me some of that material might be of general interest, as it reinforces the idea that small is beautiful. Here is a sanitized excerpt from the discussion. Hopefully it will provide at least one real-world example of the value of keeping things small.
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Small is beautiful

There’s an old saying that the more things change, the more they stay the same. The saying certainly applies to the field of software development. Things change all the time, and the things that change tend to change for the same reasons: Changing business priorities, changing costs, changing understanding of needs, changing actual needs, changing competitive pressures, changing technologies, changing availability of resources. Change occurs at all levels from the enterprise strategic plan all the way down to individual technical tasks. The details of all these changes may be very different, but there is one basic idea that can help us handle change effectively, wherever and whenever it occurs: Keep things small.
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