Good Housekeeping

Daily Clean Code

Someone borrowed a tool from the work environment and didn’t return it. As a consequence the Team needs to search for it when they need the tool. Even worse, the Team might send an email to all the employees; and they will waste their time reading and be distracted. As a last resort a new tool might be purchased.

...the Development Team wants to make progress toward the Sprint Goal.

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Where there’s a mess you lose time and energy finding where and what to start on.

If a team member has to ask where to start working, it’s a waste of their time. If they need to clean up a mess before they start working, it’s a waste of their time. If they build on a mess and need to rework what they have done, it’s a waste of their time. If they are unaware of the work state, they end up repeating the work that has already been done by another member; it’s a waste of their time and energy. If they need to ask what to do next, it's a waste of their time.

Too much information on an Information Radiator makes it hard for team members to separate signal from noise. This wastes the team's’ time.

Cleanup work accumulates to stagnate progress if the cleanup is deferred until the end of the Sprint. The work space may not get cleaned at all, as there may be too much work to be rushed near the end of the Sprint. This will sharply decrease the velocity or product quality in the upcoming Sprint.

Waste stems from an unknown state.


Maintain a completely clean product and work environment continuously or at the end of each day.

Where and what to work on will call out to the team members when the work environment is clean.

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The Development Team needs to continuously focus on maintaining the product in a state where anyone in the team can safely start working. They will also need to continuously ensure the information in their environment is useful for the team. Continuously keeping the product in shape raises confidence about the quality of the Product Increment produced at the end of the Sprint.

The product must be in a Done state everyday (or more often). The team will not necessarily create a Product Increment as the product is in a transitional state toward attaining the Sprint Goal, but what is created needs to adhere to standards.

A work environment that is messy hinders team members from seeing the actual situation. Equally, a work environment that is sterile obscures the actual situation to become invisible (e.g. a clean desk policy). The Development Team needs to throw away only the excess and useless information, and no more. Continuous focus is required to maintain the balance between too little and too much information.

Good Housekeeping is in line with 5S methodology of Toyota Production System. The 5S in Japanese stands for seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke (sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain). This methodology is about developing disciplined work habits which among other things results in a clean work area [1]. 

Good Housekeeping is not only cleaning up your own mess but also that of others. Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, the father of Scouting, stated: “Try and leave this world a little better than you found it.” Today, Scouts say, “Leave the campground cleaner than when you found it.” [2] The same applies to leaving the product and shop floor cleaner than they were when you started. This approach is a significant part of the continuous attention to technical excellence that is a principle for agile teams. [3] 

Good Housekeeping fosters commitment and discipline from the team. When starting with Good Housekeeping, the Development Team might feel that the effort is too great and eats into the Production Episode. This may be a sign that some processes/tools are too slow and this should be handled as impediments. If a Development Team cannot leave the product in a clean state everyday, then that may indicate a serious problem with the product, design, or work environment. Use Sprint Retrospectives for further inspection of what is holding you back. Create an Impediment List when there are more obstacles than you can handle. The rules for maintaining Good Housekeeping need to be part of Norms of Conduct.

Whack the Mole helps with Good Housekeeping. Where Whack the Mole is responsive, Good Housekeeping requires intention. 

[1] Liker and Meier, 2006, “The Toyota Way Fieldbook, A practical guide for implementing Toyota’s 4P’s,” pg. 64.

[2] Lord Baden Powell, cited at

[3] Manifesto for Agile Software Development, , 2001, accessed 23 January 2017.

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