Words have a huge impact on team members, affecting their work and ultimately your project, yet we often don’t put much thought into the words we use every day.

Check out some of the positive and negative connotations of traditional and agile project management words.

Waterfall Words vs. Agile Words

I recently went to my colleague Matt Badgley’s presentation Words Mean Things. It made me think about the words that we use in agile and how different they are than the words we used in Waterfall project management. So I compiled a list of words we use every day in project management and compared the waterfall words versus the agile words.

Scope Creep vs. Responding to Change

Scope Creep

Creep – verb

  1. Move slowly and carefully, especially in order to avoid being heard or noticed.
  2. (Of an unwanted and negative characteristic or fact) occur or develop gradually and almost imperceptibly.

Responding to Change

Respond – verb

  1. Say something in reply.

Scope creep in waterfall has such a negative feel. The word creep brings images of vines slowly engulfing your project. It makes the business analyst and customer the bad guys trying to sneak extra requirements into the project.

Where in agile, the Agile Manifesto says we should respond to change. Responding is proactively reacting to feedback from our customers. We’re responding to help the business and customer.

Post Mortem vs. Retrospective

Post Mortem

post•mor•tem

noun

  1. an examination of a dead body to determine the cause of death.

Retrospective

ret•ro•spect

noun

  1. a survey or review of a past course of events or period of time.

Traditionally you don’t do a post mortem until the end of the project; six months, nine months, or maybe a year. Typically this focuses on what went wrong and the root causes, no one changes their behavior because it’s too late.

Whereas retrospectives are held on a regular basis. We’re reflecting on how things are going in small chunks so we’re able to address issues early before they become a bad habit.

Meetings vs. Ceremonies

Meeting

meet•ing

noun

  1. an assembly of people, especially the members of a society or committee, for discussion or entertainment.
  2. a coming together of two or more people, by chance or arrangement.

Ceremonycer•e•mo•ny

noun

  1. a formal religious or public occasion, typically one celebrating a particular event or anniversary.
  2. the ritual observances and procedures performed at grand and formal occasions.

Most people, especially developers, don’t want to go to a meeting. It feels like a waste of time.

Whereas the word ceremony brings to mind a celebration. People coming together to celebrate something. With Scrum we’re on a regular cadence, working as a team to review the product backlog, commitments and demos.

Requirements vs. User Stories

Requirement

re•quire•ment

noun

  1. a thing that is needed or wanted.
  2. a thing that is compulsory; a necessary condition.

User Stories

sto•ry

noun

  1. an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment.
  2. an account of past events in someone’s life or in the evolution of something.

Requirements gives the sense that the discussion is over and you are required to do what has been set. It’s something that’s forced and you don’t have a choice, you have to do it.

Whereas with user stories, since the word user is in that phrase, it is pointing out that you are focusing on the user’s perspective. Then the story is about how that user is interacting with your product, what their pain points are with the product, and what you can do to make it better.

Conclusion

Agile words tend to have a much more positive connotation than waterfall words. This can greatly impact the mood of the team and be another factor to help your projects be more successful. More importantly, I think it shows how words we use every day without thinking can have a significant impact.

What other project management words are more positive in agile?

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Join the Discussion

    • Saul

      Thank you miss Susan

    • Chandra S

      Simple and right on, Susan.

    • Gopi Peteti

      Good though to distinguish the terminology and explain in details. Thank you.

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