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"Simple Ain't Easy"

We human beings, so often capable of complex thought, paradoxically also long for something often called "simplicity".  A well known example of deep reflection on the subject is Thoreau's "Walden", published in 1854, a social critique of the Western World examining aspects of humanity that needed to be either renounced or praised.  But this tension is surely as old as man.

In recent decades, the idea has been explored in relation to many domains, including charity, time management, consumerism, and home design.  In concert with this movement, it surfaced in 2001 in the Agile Manifesto:
"Simplicity - the art of maximizing the amount of work not done - is essential"
But the term is somehow deceptive - surely simplicity should be, well, simple?

Brad Appleton has blogged at length on the subject, exploring "Myths and Misunderstandings about Simplicity", including these:
  • Simplicity = "easy to do/understand"
  • Simplicity = "simple to develop/deploy"
  • Simplicity = "good enough!"
  • Simplicity = "simplistic"
Appleton wants to open a dialogue on the subject: his posts on various Agile lists this week invited discourse, asking for people's impressions and commentary - comments can be entered here or on his blog. You will probably also find discussions going on in these newsgroups: ExtremeProgramming, AgileModeling, AgileManagement, ScrumDevelopment, LeanDevelopment or PragProg,

Appleton has pulled together much information, to make this blog entry an excellent resource for those thinking about how to apply simplicity as an Agile tool - he's finished his entry with links to 14 resources on simplicity in software and other types of design, and over 30 famous and pithy quotes on simplicity, including this one, by British mathematician Sir Eric Christopher Zeeman:
"Technical skill is mastery of complexity, while creativity is mastery of simplicity."
The Agile approach invites us to consider which of these is necessary at every moment: technical skill or creativity.  Each is valuable in its own right, and when well balanced against one another and focused on customer goals, both can contribute to the creation of extraordinary business value.

Ah, balance. Therein lies the Agile practitioner's challenge!

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