Playing with words

Harmful Agile Adoptions by Playing with Words

This is an ad-hoc post written out of pure frustration with many so-called AGILE adoptions.

Everywhere I go, new fancy names get adopted for old concepts without any behavioral change. The most common is a mixture of Scrum terms and “spotify model” terms. It would be good if the adoption of a new idea came with a new word that describes that idea… but unfortunately, many agile adoptions adopted only the word agile.

On my desk, I have a translation manual for an organization I’m working with right now. It reads,

  • Tribe -> Department
  • Product Owner -> Outwards Project Manager
  • Scrum Master -> Inwards Project Manager
  • etc.

Why do organizations do this? My best good-intentions guess is that it is forced through the throat of most people in the organization by a well-intended yet naive manager who at least temporarily was enthusiastic about some new concept. Unfortunately, the adoption of the new concept was too short and too broad, leaving only words. Often the initiator of the change is so far away from the actual work that (s)he is unaware of the non-adoption as people use the right words.

This playing with words doesn’t only cause confusion and demotivation but is also harmful. Perhaps the fancy word that annoys me most is “squad” as that word didn’t even bring a new concept but was truly just a rename of the word “team.” WHY!?!? Is it because we have a preference for military originated words? Do we like that this word is also used in e.g. firing squad? The adoption of the word squad has been a puzzle for me. But this also causes harm as adopting a meaningless word for an existing concept makes it harder to learn more about that concept. Ironically, my Amazon search on “improving squads” led me to a book called “the cheerleaders.” Perhaps the books “group dynamics for squads, “coaching squads”, and “squadwork” are being written now? (I’m also waiting for Microsoft Squads).

Wish we could stop playing with words.

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