Tool: Relax Constraint

Relax Constraint is a method of optimizing a practice in terms of changing the balance between constraints and benefits that the practice results in, in favor of more effective outcomes. It is often naturally used in conjunction with Benefit-Constraint Analysis. Hidden Constraint tool is also effective in finding certain aspects of a practice that are over-constraining knowledge workers but the constraint itself is not necessarily obvious in the first place.

As figure 1 suggests, relaxing constraints makes sense when those changes induce little or no reduction in practice value:

Figure 1. Relaxing constraints makes sense when it leads to little or no decrease in value.

Relax Constraint is largely a context-dependent approach: what is a useful constraint for organization X may not be so for Y, even though they apply the same practice. Therefore, relaxing constraints requires careful experimentation and adjustment over time.

Examples:

  • Instead of pursuing certain test coverage with unit test, teams decide to move to selective coverage based on dependencies and typical structure of business demand
  • An organization drops cadence for all types of activities except for interaction with the customer, in order to be more flexible
  • An organization drops tasking as part of estimation process and stays at high-level

Caution. Relaxing constraints may sometimes lead to unpredictable outcomes (both unpredictable good and bad). It is important to remember that some constraints are vital for a practice to deliver any value. An organization must be careful not to apply this technique as a method of removing all constraints in new practices that challenge the old way of thinking.

 

Ⓒ Org Mindset, LLC