The Agile Tribe

Do you speak my language? Reaching a common understanding in Agile speak

on January 4, 2010

Author: Susan Akers

I loved this term “a unified vocabulary” when I recently saw it in David Farkas’s article on How UCD and Usability can live together. His comments particularly the one below really hit home with me as I have been working on a particular project which seemed to me, not to be considering the user experience at all! I have sometimes seen this lack of a unified or common vocabulary in a team at the start of projects, particularly Agile ones:

“.. the breakdowns that exist in integrating User Centred Design and Agile exist as a result of miscommunication from poorly set or unframed expectations. As Agile and UCD further develop and members of each camp have training to both methods I see the miscommunication fading as a unified vocabulary and set of deliverables form”

To me training is definitely part of the answer but it’s not sufficient unless all parties are prepared to also change their attitudes. Coming from a business background, I was totally frustrated in trying to explain my expectations to my technical team because I felt that they were always talking ‘techo talk’ to me and not explaining what they were doing in plain English. Then I completed the Taste of Agile course through the Agile Academy.

What a difference a day makes! I learned that if I was to speak and understand a foreign technical language of storycards, iterations, stand-ups and estimations, I really needed some Agile lessons. These terms had all been just noise to me beforehand. However, just training the business is not sufficient for successful collaboration. Both sides have to change their communication style and I think this recent tweet @GreenHomeShop sums up what all parties need to learn and accept:

.. two people can look at the exact same thing and see something totally different. ~James Rhinehart~

In conclusion, don’t play the blame game, be like me and accept that Agile is all about building a unified communication bridge and getting over it with your whole team!

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