Por Mauro Rebelo

Excellence through Clarity and Simplicity


Agile Journey

Over the last two years, my team and I have adopted agile development methods to carry out complex R&D projects in biotechnology. We swapped traditional Gantt charts for Scrum, looking for ways to navigate the uncertainties of our projects more effectively. The move wasn’t a whim; it was a matter of survival. Inefficiency led us to go over budget and work excessively to meet deadlines and deliverables. We use Scrum’s knowledge discovery cycles to help us deal with project uncertainties and increase the value we deliver to clients, as well as generating more intellectual property for our company. However, we still have to improve. Despite being overloaded, our unfinished stories are piling up and we’re not seeing a steady increase in productivity. It’s frustrating, to say the least.

Pursuit of Excellence

The room for improvement led me to question: what does it mean to be excellent? In the context of our work and Scrum, excellence means creating value for our customers and our company by improving productivity. For our clients, value comes in the form of solving problems, while for our company, in building new knowledge and intellectual property.

Knowledge is our main product, but a disheartening 80% of it is usually undocumented and subject to loss due to memory or personal failure.

This is where the challenge and the opportunity lie. Documentation is crucial not only for the process, but for preserving this knowledge itself, ensuring that it is comprehensive, accurate and easily accessible. However, there is a constant struggle to find the right balance – the perfect granularity of documentation.

Veil of Clarity

The issue of granularity reveals a bigger problem: a lack of clarity. This is an obstacle on our path to excellence. When our objectives, roles, processes or even the project vision are not clearly understood, we lose efficiency. Scientists, in their quest for precision, sometimes sacrifice clarity, creating obstacles to understanding and communication within the team. The Pareto principle can offer guidance here, suggesting that a significant part of our value can be created by focusing on a small but crucial set of tasks. The challenge lies in clearly communicating these tasks so that everyone understands where their efforts should be directed.


This is where simplicity comes into play. As proposed by Occam’s Razor, the simplest solution is usually the right one. By removing unnecessary complexities, we can expose the core of our work, improving clarity and fostering excellence. However, it is important to remember that Occam’s Razor is not a mandate to oversimplify. Nature, as the razor reminds us, is as simple as possible, but no simpler. The challenge is to simplify to the point where processes are clear, efficient and effective, but not so much that they lose their meaning or usefulness.

By constantly asking ourselves, “How can I simplify this?” we get closer to clarity and, consequently, excellence.