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Do we need to be consistent with Agile terminology?

April 3, 2017

Organizations may have a published or unpublished business glossary so their employees have a common understanding of various terms.  In many cases there are good reasons for this.  Due to the organization's business, they may have a specific meaning compared to the generally accepted terminology.  Sometimes there is no generally accepted terminology so the organization tries to arrive at something suitable.


Agile terminology can be confusing, especially for those that are new to Agile.  In today's world, a Google search is the first reaction when coming across a term we don't recognize or understand.  What happens next is fairly common. The first few hits provide a different meaning than what the organization has adopted.  How is that possible?  Surely somebody must have researched this term before announcing it to the organization. Chances are they did.  But that was some time ago and things have changed.


Another example is where an organization is introducing a new Agile tool (e.g. Jira plugin).  The tool does everything as advertised but the organization is slow to adopt it because the the 2 sides aren't speaking the same language. Instead of a new tool, what about a new framework (e.g. SAFe)?  This can become increasing frustrating trying to figure out what equals what.  For instance, the organization says MVP (Minimum Viable Product) but they really mean MMF (Minimum Marketable Feature) which is what the tool is really referring to.


Here are some pointers to help you out with your Agile terminology:


1. Research the terms.  Make sure the terms are thoroughly investigated before releasing it to the organization.  You may want to have 3 individuals come up with their own definition and then compare and modify accordingly.


2. Update the terms.  Not only does Agile terminology change but different experts have different definitions. Anyone new to the organization should be confused as to what the term is referring to.


3. Use the terms.  Encourage the use of Agile terminology in conversations, emails, contracts, bulletins, etc.  It will enhance the understanding and adoption of the terms.



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