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  • Writer's pictureGreg Madhere

On Work Orphans

Work orphans appear daily in life.

What's a work orphan?

I call work that doesn't tie to or rollup to an overall "parent" strategy, objective, or value stream in any way a "work orphan".

In agile projects these would be the equivalent of stories created that don't belong to an epic, and are essentially free floating.

Now being a temporary work orphan isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Keyword being temporary.

When you go through the exercise of trying to reconcile that piece of work to your goals, objectives, and strategies you'll come to one of two conclusions:

  1. Ah, this is where this belongs and it's helping me accomplish ABC.

  2. Or I have no idea how this fits in my big picture. Why are we doing this again?

Work orphans in the second bucket will for sure keep you busy. And it's not that they aren't important or necessary, but are they important or necessary right now?

Do they need to be worked on at this very moment to help you achieve the targets you and your business are supposed to be aligned to?

Are they bringing any value at all to you or your customers?

When you take a look under the covers of your business, or if you're a solopreneur, a hard look at yourself, you'll probably discover a small army of low priority work orphans keeping you and your team very busy.

Productive? That's a hard no.

Eliminating, minimizing, or adopting work orphans into a happy, healthy, prioritized home is how you stay focused on all the things you should be working on to win.


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