The Agile Tribe

Agile is not a four letter word, but does go by many names.

on September 6, 2010

Author: Susan Akers

As a non- technical Agilist I am often flummoxed by new terms that seem to be have been created by Agile technical people to talk about Agile and its practices and values. So I thought I would put together a little quick reference guide of terms that might prove helpful.

Please remember, that this is from my perspective and undertanding, so I’d be very happy to hear your comments if you have a better definition. I have completed some basic Agile training but the terms I am talking about here seem to be ones that people use on an operational basis. I also started thinking of providing a full A to Z first up, but it was too intensive for me, so here is what I have come up with, from A to G so far.

A: Agile – is a way of thinking and working. It requires a positive attitude towards collaboration with your immediate team members (or part of a broader team), an openness to embrace change and a willingness to act quickly. The goal being to produce workable solutions your customer actually wants, creating less risk and higher business value. This means quick returns (or iterations) so real results are seen in a matter of weeks rather than months or years.

A: Artifact. (yes, this is correct, not a typo). This is anything you produce during the development of a software or business project lifecycle. These could be – Templates, Diagrams, quick “How to” one pagers, or anything you can reuse for another project.

B: Brown Bag (or Lunch ‘n Learn). Usually refers to a lunch time training or information session (hence ‘brown bag’ to bring your lunch in, so can eat and listen at the same time). Some great examples can be found at:

C: Continuous improvement or Cha cha changing. If you can’t accept change, you might think you would hate working in an Agile environment. But, I’m sure that your team will think and talk about a project when it’s completed, and what went right and wrong and what you would do better next time. Congratulations! You have just conducted an Agile retrospective and are using the Agile practice of Continuous Improvement.

D: Do realise that Agile is not just about software development. Agile, as I mentioned under “A”, is a way of thinking about things which is why our business colleagues have taken to it. They have realised that they could use it on their own projects/tasks and gotten the same positive results about solving issues and continuous improving their process to make it easier and more successful the next time. They have also found that having a standup each morning has stopped the interminable wasted status meetings they once had.

E: Experience reports (also known as Field reports). Often seen listed at conferences. My understanding is that they are presentations where experienced practitioners talk about their hands-on experience and discuss case studies, the blockers they had and the lessons they learned from both their sucesses and failures.

F: Fishbowls. Normally this means getting 3-4 seats in the middle of the room (the fishbowl) with the rest of the team in an outer circle watching. Everyone takes a turn in sitting in the fishbowl sharing their concerns, asking questions, and also discussing proposed solutions. Usually one seat is left empty so that if anyone wants to join the discussion in the fishbowl they can sit in the empty chair.

To ensure there is always a seat vacant, an existing member of the fishbowl must voluntarily leave the fishbowl and free up a seat. The great thing about this is that it gives everyone an opportunity to speak so the discussion doesn’t get dominated by just 1 or 2 speakers. An example can be found at:

G: Go for the low hanging fruit. Make the quick wins. Don’t get caught up in the end solution – cut your project into small reachable goals (wins) along the way and do the easy and quick things to complete, first. Why? Because it makes everyone feel positive, and in spite of what challenges you may be facing you are also achieving!

Stay tuned for the next instalment of H to M. Feel free to send me your suggestions as well.

But for the time being:
That’s how Sue sees it! (Source:GLEE)


3 responses to “Agile is not a four letter word, but does go by many names.

  1. Sasha says:

    Thanks for sharing. There are certainly some terms here I have never heard of at all. I love the Lunch ‘n Learn site though. Great to see there are some organisations that are happy to share their information and experience openly. Thanks again.

  2. Careful about G – in my experience it is best to start with the most difficult things as they take longer than you expect, and you do not want to leave them until the last minute. Even in my domestic chores I will do the most difficult or nastiest thing first, then it’s all downhill from there.

    I appreciate what you are saying though – monitor the morale of the team and chuck a low hanger in as a bonus when they need a lift, then they won’t become disheartened 🙂

    • Susan Akers says:

      Thanks Nikki. I had never heard of this term before this which is why I included it as well. Working and thinking Agile seems to mean using English flexibly as well. Yes, I guess the main thing is that everyone likes to see some wins and maybe that’s what makes people then tackle the nastier type or bigger jobs with a bit more enthusiasm. Appreciate your comment.

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