How To Create A Common Glossary For Agile Value Creation
The Need For Agile Glossaries
When we dive into Agile Product or Agile Software Development we get into abstract concepts, terms and vocabulary we are not acquainted with. Most of these are new or unfamiliar to us. In addition, there are concepts we know, but now have new and different semantics and interpretation than we know from your previous or existing work live. For example, "value" has different meanings in Agile Product Development, Design Thinking, and Lean Production/Manufacturing, for more details see my blog post.
When people from different professional contexts and worlds of experience work together, misunderstandings are inevitable if they use equal words having different semantics. I argue, therefore, for a common Agile Vocabulary to communicate with a shared, common understanding. A unified language with a common vocabulary is indispensable.
To establish a shared Agile Terminology we can find there multiple Agile Glossaries on the Internet. Just start a query with the keywords "scrum agile kanban glossary" with your favourite search engine — we get hundreds of results. To name a few:
- Scrum Glossary - Scrum Inc
- Agile Glossary and Reference Library - Agile Pain Relief
- Scrum Glossary - Scrum.org
- Scrum and Agile Glossary - SCRUMstudy
- Agile & Scrum Glossary of Terms - Cprime
- Scrum Glossary - Wrike
- Agile and Scrum Glossary - Volkerdon
- The Product Glossary
Most of the glossaries differ in their wording and semantics because of their varying ideological backgrounds. Some terminologies are characterized by the historical evolution of the Scrum Guide. Others come from companies or certification agencies that want to launch their products or training. The glossary creators try to propagate their branded terms, concepts, or specific fundamentals and certificates.
The Need For Agile Product Development and Value Creation Glossary
To cut a long story short, currently, there are hardly any glossaries for "Agile Product Development" neutral and detached from software development. For historical reasons, many agile glossaries still refer strongly to software development. Meanwhile, however, "Agile Product Development" has emancipated itself from "Agile Software Development" as an independent term. First, this happened in Design Thinking and it was not until the Scrum Guide 2017/20 that this change also took place "officially" in the agile community.
With this article, I would like to lay the foundation for a boots-trap-like remedy. I do not want to come up with an additional "new" big upfront agile product development glossary. Instead, I start with a nucleus of only a few important concept definitions. Take this nucleus as a kind of rhizome, to develop additional and more elaborate definitions. Two of the most blurred and therefore most fascinating terms in Agile Product Development are "Value" resp. "Product Value". They are the centre of this nucleus.
Product Value is hard to measure. To measure the value of their products, companies often tend to place different kinds of proxies there. And here are the reasons for many misunderstandings in communication and understanding.
With the following concepts, I start the nucleus definition of a Common Agile Product Development Glossary. It is biased by trying to integrate Design Thinking and Agile concepts of Product Value and Value Creation. All highlightings in bold, underline, or italic fonts in text and quotations are done by me. For certain keywords, I use capital in the text by purpose.
- Product: is a vehicle of Value (Scrum Guide 2020). — A Product satisfies a Customer/User Need or Problem (Problem-Fit). From a business perspective, the Product has to fit the market (Market-Fit), to create a sustainable business from it (Andresen June 25, 2007).
- Problem: for the Customer/User a matter or situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome.
- Complexity: the behaviour of a system whose components interact in multiple ways and follow local rules, leading to nonlinearity, randomness, collective dynamics, hierarchy, and emergence (Snowden, Boone 2007).
A complex Product consists of many parts, it is hard to understand because it interacts with its environment in its own dynamic and emergence in multiple nonlinear, random ways.
- Customer: pays for the Product and does not necessarily use it. Can be external groups, or internal ones of the manufacturing organization.
- User: uses the Product and does not necessarily pay for it. Can be external groups, or internal ones of the manufacturing organization.
- Product Value: is connected to the usefulness of the Product for the Customer/User to solve a Problem. – Value is related to Outcomes not to Output (Ageling 2020, Apr. 18). A Product must be Fit for Purpose (Anderson, Zheglov 2017) and must be able To Do a Job (Christensen 2016, Ulwick 1999).
- Business Value: is a financial measurement of tangible and intangible benefits a business can get from the capabilities of a product. These benefits differ between products created for internal use (products created by the company and used by the company) and products for external use (to be sold to customers). To name a few:
- Internal Use: Employee Satisfaction, Total Cost of Ownership, Return on Investment, Cycle Time Reduction, Service Level Agreement Penalties and Bonuses, Outage Penalties, Work Effort, Service and Problem Tickets, Legal, Contractual and Regulatory Compliance.
- External Use: Company Reputation, Customer Satisfaction, Revenue Growth, Percentage of Market Share.
- Both: Product Reliability and Safety, Outage Rate.
- Value Stream:
- Lean Manufacturing: "A Value stream is the set of actions that take place to add Value to a Customer from the initial request through the realization of Value by the Customer. A Value stream always begins and ends with the Customer. The goal is to improve time to Value by optimizing the whole Value stream."
- Agile Product Development: "A Value Stream is the set of actions needed to discover or deliver on a Job-to-be-Done basis a signal to the Customer/User. Experience. A Value Stream always begins and ends with a User or a Customer. The goal is to improve the experience by optimizing the whole Value Stream." – (Appelo 2022).
- Project: discrete scope of work and time with a specified aim.
- Product-led company: the company knows that the success of Products is primarily driven by growth and learning as opposed to other forms such as sales-led, visionary-led, technology-led, or simply shipping Features. Real Product-led companies are Value-driven.
- There are many glossaries for Agile Software Development, but few for Agile Product Development published.
- Many glossaries differ in having their own concept interpretations due to aligning with their own company interests.
- This post argues for a nucleus around the vaguest and most important notions: "Value" resp. "Product Value" to create a common shared Agile Product Development.
- Ageling, Willem-Jan (2020, Apr. 18): Forget the Output and Focus on the Outcome Instead! And let Teams find their own way to success. Medium.com, 2020, Apr. 18. https://medium.com/awesome-agile/forget-the-Output-and-focus-on-the-Outcome-instead-c96805dc4c5f.
- Anderson, David J., Zheglov, Alexei (2017): Fit for Purpose: How Modern Businesses Find, Satisfy, & Keep Customers. Blue Hole Press, 2017.
- Andresen, Marc (June 25, 2007): Part 4. The only thing that matters. Pmarchive, June 25, 2007. https://pmarchive.com/guide_to_startups_part4.html.
- Appelo, Jurgen (2022): unFIX. Tip 10: Use the updated value stream definition. https://unfix.com/tips/value-stream-definition.
- Christensen, Clayton M (2016): Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail (Management of Innovation and Change). Harvard Business Review Press; Reprint Edition, 2016.
- Scrum Guide (Scrum Guide 2020). https://scrumguides.org/index.html.
- Snowden, David J., Boone, Mary E. (2007): A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making. Harvard Business Review, HBR Nov. 2007. https://hbr.org/2007/11/a-leaders-framework-for-decision-making.
- Ulwick, Antony W. (1999): Jobs to be Done. Theory to Practice. Idea Bite Press, 1999.