Software Development Waste


These findings may not generalize, but the taxonomy is still a valuable checklist for any team that's trying to figure out how to be more efficient.



Observed Causes

Building the wrong feature or product

The cost of building a feature or product that does not address user or business needs.

User desiderata (not doing user research, validation, or testing; ignoring user feedback; working on low user value features) Business desiderata (not involving a business stakeholder; slow stakeholder feedback; unclear product priorities)

Mismanaging the backlog

The cost of duplicating work, expediting lower value user features, or delaying necessary bug fixes.

Backlog inversion Working on too many features simultaneously Duplicated work Not enough ready stories Imbalance of feature work and bug fixing Delaying testing or critical bug fixing Capricious thrashing


The cost of altering delivered work that should have been done correctly but was not.

Technical debt Rejected stories (e.g. product manager rejects story implementation) No clear definition of done (ambiguous stories; second-guessing design mocks) Defects (poor testing strategy; no root-cause analysis on bugs)

Unnecessarily complex solutions

The cost of creating a more complicated solution than necessary, a missed opportunity to simplify features, user interface, or code.

Unnecessary feature complexity from the user’s perspective Unnecessary technical complexity (duplicating code, lack of interaction design reuse, an overly complex technical design created up-front)

Extraneous cognitive load

The costs of unneeded expenditure of mental energy.

Suffering from technical debt Complex or large stories Inefficient tools and problematic APIs, libraries, and frameworks Unnecessary context switching Inefficient development flow Poorly organized code

Psychological distress

The costs of burdening the team with unhelpful stress.

Low team morale Rush mode Interpersonal or team conflict


The cost of idle time, often hidden by multi-tasking.

Slow tests or unreliable tests Unreliable acceptance environment Missing information, people, or equipment Context switching from delayed feedback

Knowledge loss

The cost of re-acquiring information that the team once knew.

Team churn Knowledge silos

Ineffective communication

The cost of incomplete, incorrect, misleading, inefficient, or absent communication.

The team size is too large Asynchronous communication (distributed teams; distributed stakeholders; dependency on another team; opaque processes outside the team) Imbalance (dominating the conversation; not listening) Inefficient meetings (lack of focus; skipping retros; not discussing blockers each day; meetings running over (e.g. long stand-ups))

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