Less ‘aggressive’ phrasing/word for “ruthlessly remove unnecessary complexity” from requirements

Note – there is currently some misreading of this question, reflected in the given answers – it’s referring to the removal of unnecessary detail, from requirements, not a word for ‘simplifying the code’, or ‘simplifying the codebase’. Also I’ve now removed a paradoxical error that was previously present in the question

I’m a software engineer, and I often express the desire to be ‘ruthless with removing detail’ from the formal requirements definition for a piece of software (a formal requirements definition is a document written in English that describes the requirements of what the software will do, e.g. a user will be able to press button ‘x’, and ‘y’ will happen).

The word ‘ruthless’ can have an aggressive interpretation however, and I’m wondering if there’s a softer sounding single word, or succinct phrase I can use to represent something more like the meaning of “rigorously remove unnecessary complexity”, that is applicable to software requirements.

A term that I’m looking for would be equally useful for describing “the maximised reduction of any set of complex requirements where that reduction will lead to a reduced time to deliver those requirements in a usable form”.

I sometimes use a phrase like “let’s leanify the requirements”, to convey my meaning. In software engineering as with other forms of manufacture, ‘lean’ methodology is often employed, and to do something ‘lean’ is to minimise the required effort for a given outcome.

There are references to ‘leanify’ being used by others, however its usage doesn’t appear on Google Ngram Viewer:


Other terms I’ve come up with are similar to what I’m looking for, however they don’t capture the required meaning as well as ‘leanify’:

  • optimally simplify
  • streamline the development
  • optimise efficiency
  • optimise the simplicity

Is there a more popularly used word that represents the concept as well as ‘leanify’, or that is close to it?


Cull complexity (for the ruthless connotations)

Trim the requirements.

Decimate complexity (also ruthless, but in the literal sense only paring down to 9/10, so maybe not as far reaching as you’d like)

Skeletonize the requirements (i.e. reducing them to bare bones…, also image processing lingo with appropriate connotations)

Thin the requirements

Erode the requirements (only applicable if you exclusively communicate with people who are into image processing, otherwise the meaning is lost or even reversed)

Axiomate the requirements (invented word, referencing axioms as the irreducible foundations of something)

Distill the requirements (by getting rid of all the diluting fluff)

Crack the requirements (only for specific audience; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cracking_(chemistry))

Condense the requirements (Changing them from the hot-air-like gaseous phase to something much less voluminous…)

Source : Link , Question Author : Chris Halcrow , Answer Author : loonquawl

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