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  • Jeremy Willets

On Agile Jargon…

I sometimes find myself in the situation where I need to describe what I do as a vocation to someone; someone I’ve just met, a family member, or even a friend. I used to launch in to a jargon filled description of Agile using terms like Scrum, Kanban, SAFe, Scrum Master, and Product Owner. And that rarely landed well. On the best days, I’d get a few follow up questions seeking to clarify what I said, or attempting to find something in what I’d said that was relatable to their own experiences. On the worst days, I could see them grasping for straws in my explanation and basically drawing the conclusion that I was just another IT person, full of jargon they’d never quite comprehend. We’d move on and talk about other things — usually their own careers, which were eminently more relatable (because it’s their own story they’re living).

These experiences got me thinking about how to describe Agile without all of the jargon that’s become an inevitable part of the domain. (And yes, I do realize that the word “Agile” is a distinct piece of jargon as well.)


I immediately thought of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development and how remarkably un-jargony it is. There’s nothing in there about a specific methodology or roles or frameworks. There aren’t even any proper nouns! It’s simple. And it’s described in a way that lots of people can conceptually understand.

But I wanted to take things a step further and see whether I could distill the 4 values and 12 principles down into something that anyone could get. Here’s what I came up with:

“Agile” is about people working together to achieve better outcomes for customers, companies, and employees.

Perhaps that’s too simple a distillation of something as rich as the Manifesto, but I’m confident that you can look at that statement and see how every line in the Manifesto ties in. I’m also relatively sure that sentence could apply to whatever framework or methodology you prefer to use.

It’s “why” Agile is what it is. And it’s what Agile gives us the aegis and permission to go do.

Read the Manifesto for Agile Software Development here:

http://agilemanifesto.org

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