Agile / Scrum Terminology for Dummies

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Here are definitions of some of the terms used in Corrado De Sanctis’ article Collaboration gaps enhanced by a game? Yes, we can – for those of us who are not experts in Agile / Lean /Scrum. I have done my best with creating these definitions, but am no expert, so please feel free to let me know if any of them are not right.

Initiative –  In Agile terms an Initiative is a collection of projects which are designed to meet a common goal. For example, let’s say your software company wants to penetrate a new market. Moving into that market is the initiative, and you might undertake a number of product development projects to achieve the goal of that initiative.

Sprint – In Agile product development, a sprint is a set period of time during which specific work must be completed and made ready for review.

Each sprint starts with a planning meeting. During that meeting, the person requesting the work and the development team agree upon the work to be done during the sprint. The development team has the final say on how much work can realistically be accomplished during the sprint, while the person who requested the work has the final say on the criteria under which the work will be approved and accepted.

Components – Components are discrete parts of a product which are to be delivered to complete a project.

Dependencies – Dependencies are relationships across work that needs to be done. They can also be thought of as ‘things that need to happen’ before progress can be made. For example, it might be necessary for one piece of work to be signed off before work can start on another. Dependencies are disruptive because they cause delays, and they must therefore be mitigated, or better still, eliminated.

Internal Dependencies – These are dependencies which are under the control of the teams doing the work. To give an example from outside software development, you must finish plastering your wall before it can be painted.

External Dependencies – These are dependencies which are outsidethe control of the teams doing the work. For example, waiting for funding to be released by the Finance department before the next stage of development can start.

Solve Dependencies – term fixes to get around dependencies might include creating additional coordination roles, but the best way to solve dependencies is to eliminate them with long-term strategic actions such as upskilling, or change organisational design.

Timebox – A previously agreed period of time during which a team works towards a goal. A Sprint is timeboxed.

Integration – Agile integration is a software development approach that tries to ensure that new development meshes seamlessly with existing systems.

Velocity – In Agile velocity is the amount of work done during a sprint. Velocity describes the distance your team travel to reach to sprint objective.

Retrospective – In Agile, retrospectives are regular meetings at which the team reflects on how to become more effective, then adjusts its behaviour accordingly.

Scrum of Scrums – If the development team is large (over a dozen people), it can be split into smaller teams of 5-10. Each daily scrum meeting (which sets the context for the days work) within a sub-team ends by designating one member as “ambassador” to participate in a daily meeting with ambassadors from other teams, called the Scrum of Scrums.

PO Sync – This is the content-focused equivalent of the Scrum of Scrums, to ensure alignment of the product vision.

Backlog – This is a list of what must be delivered to complete a product or project.  A Product Backlog contains ‘everything’ whereas a Sprint Backlog contains just those items that relate to the work of a specific sprint. Backlog Consumption relates to the completion of those items – working your way through your to-do list.

Sub-optimisation – A Sub Optimal system is a system where the optimisation of the system or the elimination of waste has been undertaken based upon the value stream of part of the system. These efforts may actually cause the entire system to be less efficient.

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