Deferred Terminology

Oh, how we love discussions about terminology…

Is my course about management or leadership?

Are the problems we discuss complex or complicated?

Do the teams need coaches or mentors?

Should they have responsibility or accountability?

Are we being agile or lean?

The discussions about terminology go on and on. Yes, I’ve been guilty about this too. I love a good fight about a few letters, every now and then. 🙂

But does it matter?

After more than a decade we should know that we can make good progress in our work despite uncertainty, fuzzy boundaries, diverse opinions, and minimal definitions.

We can go on forever trying to find the “right” specifications for our most cherished words. But maybe we should stop splitting hairs over terminology and go and produce something.

Ah! But if we produce things… should we then aim for output or outcome?

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  • Matthias Orgler

    It’s correct, sometimes you should just defer those academic discussions. But be careful not to skip the necessary definition of the domain language! Being fuzzy when calling your business objects something they are not can lead to big problems while or after developing the software. However, I don’t think you meant to defer domain terminology :).

  • Michael Sahota

    Yes, it matters.
    From Cynefin perspective there is a huge difference between complex and complicated. The literally mean different things and we need different tools in each domain. So this is really about being clear on what it is that we mean.
    Agile and Lean imply very different cultures.
    Personal responsibility is a key ingredient for success. Accountability is to others – this is important but less valuable.
    I would suggest that we need to have an explicit, describable understanding what we are doing in order to evolve what we are doing.
    – Michael

  • Jurgen Appelo

    There are no objective definitions of what these words mean. The (commonly used) meaning of the word management has slowly changed over the years. Lyssa Adkins gives a different meaning to mentors/coaches in her book than I do in my book. And scientists don’t even agree how to measure complexity.
    In the end it is important to understand each other, also when we disagree. It much less important to define exactly what the words mean.

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