Watch your language Agile

The best strategy to deliver software I know is incremental delivery. With incremental delivery I mean working feature by feature, based on a prioritized list, reducing risks, if there are losses take them early, high involvement of customers that sort of things. Yes I confess, prefer working in an Agile mindset.

I have read many (war)stories on why adoption Agile/Scrum can be difficult. Virginia Satir once said that people tend to choose familiarity over comfort. Well there is a lot of wisdom in that quote. I like to share an additional reason why I think the change/transition to Agile/Scrum can be difficult. It has to do with language.

Agile/Scrum uses words like planning poker, sprints, scrum (master), story points, chickens and pigs. Yes chickens and pigs….

On wiki the metaphor is explained;  “The fable of the Chicken and the Pig is used to illustrate the differing levels of project stakeholders involved in a project. The basic fable runs; A Pig and a Chicken are walking down the road. The Chicken says: Hey Pig, I was thinking we should open a restaurant! Pig replies: Hm, maybe, what would we call it? The Chicken responds: How about ‘ham-n-eggs’? The Pig thinks for a moment and says: No thanks. I’d be committed, but you’d only be involved!

For a Scrum project, Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Team are considered as people who are committed to the project while customers and executive management are considered as involved but not committed to the project.”

Okay I know it’s a metaphor but come on! Naming your customer and executive management chickens? If someone talks about a sprint, I think of Usain Bolt. But that’s not what a sprint means in Agile’s dictionairy. A sprint is a timeboxed effort, it is restricted to a specific duration, not how fast team members work. And what about the term Planning Poker? We are working here, not gambling at a casino.

There is a common known problem with language; Ambiguity.


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