Can a Project Be Beautiful?

What would make a project beautiful? What sort of aesthetic would we seek? Would would make a beautiful plan? What would make a beautiful backlog? What would make a beautiful team? What would make a beautiful delivery?

I imagine it might be different for everyone…

The Plan

For me, a beautiful plan would be something that covers a wall of a team or war room. It would have requirements, wireframes, architectures, acceptance criteria, impediments.







It would tell a graphic story of the evolution of the project over time. It would be a graphic history in multiple dimensions, worthy of Edward Tufte. But it would not be perfect. It would reflect rough edges, rapid sketching, mistakes, blind alleys, rough annotations everywhere.










It would also reflect the growth and improvement of the team. Items from retrospectives would be incorporated into the timeline. There would be different ways that the team measured their own performance. It would be a glorious mess!









The Backlog

A beautiful backlog would be on it’s own wall. It would reflect dialog with the customer, questions from the team, user profiles and scenarios.











It would be shaped like an inverted pyramid, with rich detail at the top, tapering down to sparse sets of one line ideas and proposals below. It would have color (LOTS of color) and use different shapes to indicate stories, epics, features, etc.









The Team

A beautiful team is tight. The team works physically closely together, eliminating all barriers, focusing on collaborative activity over solo activity. They work together, they eat together, they respect each other. They share roles and responsibilities promiscuously.











They pair, they mob, they swarm!











 The Delivery

A beautiful delivery is smooth and effortless: friction free. It happens on demand – with the ease of a thought. Work flows through to production almost inevitably. It’s a downhill slide, not a grind uphill.













What does a beautiful project look like to you?

2 Responses to Can a Project Be Beautiful?

  1. Christophe Bunn says:

    Hi, I’m not sure about two things in particular:
    – “glorious mess”: having all needed information right there in front of your eyes is definitely a must; but how do you balance understandability and overwhelming complexity? Also, I suspect team members need to follow clear standards (e.g. like UML for modeling), otherwise the information written by one will not be understood by others.
    – “promiscuously”: I work remotely, and although I would sometimes benefit from being in the same room as one or two colleagues at a time, too much promiscuity hampers the ability to concentrate. Another difficult balance…

    • Tom Perry says:

      Christophe, those are great questions. I hate to give the consultants answer (but here it comes…) what works best for you? I agree it’s a delicate balance. Personally, when it comes to information, I’m a bit of a neat freak and I appreciate structure. That said, I also value spontaneity and learning, and I want my information radiators to reflect that (to some tolerable degree). The point of this article is to question what that might look like for you. There’s value in stopping for a moment to ask ourselves that question. Ditto for promiscuity.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: