Category Archives: Agile Glossary

Agile Glossary (A-F)


Activity – a task or function that when performed produces a product or service.

Agile – the name coined for the wider set of ideas that Scrum falls within; the Agile values and principles are captured in the Agile Manifesto.

Agile Project Management – a project management approach also known as Agile Scrum and originally developed for the software industry. Agile Project Management is an approach that delivers value early and often through rapid time-boxed Iterations known as Sprints. Unlike a waterfall approach to project management, the deliverables of every Agile Project Sprint are proven to contribute directly to customer value creation, e.g., a fully tested unit of code, or a new form or procedure that is in place and being used. Agile is a Lean approach to project management.

Andon Board – a term for a visual control device that allows anyone to see and manage the status of the Value Stream.

Appreciative Inquiry – a radically holistic way to rebuild organisational rapport and efficiency by building on success and positive narratives from the past, rather than remain mired in self-assessments based on previous failures or mistakes. The Appreciative Inquiry approach restructures organisational self-esteem and rapport and focuses on the constructive actions needed to recreate the future in a positive, nurturing ambiance.


Backlog – Activities held in inventory that have yet to be initiated as Work-in-process. See Product, Project, or Sprint Backlog.

Item – see Backlog, Product Item.

Batch – an assembly of various items intended for future processing at the appropriate time.

Bottleneck – any point in the Value Stream where the capacity to produce work is less than the work ready to be performed.

Burndown – see Burndown Chart, Sprint Burndown, Product Burndown.

Burndown Chart – a report, in table form, generally updated on a daily basis, that reveals hours a Team spent during an Agile Sprint. In the chart, the Y-axis indicates the number of task hours remaining and the X-axis indicates the time duration of the Sprint.

Business Friction – barriers to Workplace productivity that build when the Value Streams of the organisation are not aligned with the four dimensions of office performance: people, process, technology, and time.

Business Value Add – anything needed by business to improve effectiveness and efficiency of the CVA work while retaining legality and viability as a business entity.


Capability – ability, through both resources and expert knowledge, necessary to produce products or services. Capabilities can be exemplified by communication skills, relevant software knowledge, project management skills, proficiency in quality assurance analysis, Team-building, etc.

Chicken – (arch.) A term for anyone not on the Team. The term offended some people so is now rarely used, cf. Pig.

Constraint – anything that limits a Value Stream from achieving higher performance; i.e., throughput, cycle time, quality.

Continuous Flow – the ideal Value Stream that experiences no wait states. In a state of continuous flow the work time and the Service Time of a Value Stream are identical.

Continuous Performance Improvement – an approach that engages employees in an unrelenting focus on improving the effectiveness and efficiencies of the Value Streams of an organisation.

Cost of Non-quality – the financial impact due to the production of Waste by the organisation. Here Waste refers to all seven Wastes and their financial impact, not just the waste of defects.

Current State Value Stream – a snapshot view of a Value Stream as it exists at the time of observation.

Customer – the internal or external recipient of the value produced by an upstream role of a Value Stream.

Customer Value – something of worth in usefulness or importance to a customer. Sometimes used interchangeably with Stakeholder value.

Cycle Time – the time required to complete a cycle of an operation.


Daily Scrum – a fifteen-minute daily Team meeting to share progress, report impediments and make commitments.

Done – also referred to as “Done” or “Done Done”, this term is used to describe a product increment that is considered releasable; it means that all design, coding, testing and documentation have been completed and the increment is fully integrated into the system.


Effectiveness – maximising the overall performance of a Value Stream. Sometimes there is a tradeoff where increasing effectiveness causes reduced efficiency of certain individual Activities.

Efficiency – maximising the performance of a single Activity of a Value Stream. Sometimes there is a tradeoff where increasing efficiency causes reduced effectiveness of the overall performance of the Value Stream.

Emergence – the principle that the best designs, and the best ways of working come about over time through doing the work, rather than being defined in advance, cf.

Empiricism – the principle of “inspect and adapt” which allows Teams or individuals to try something out and learn from the experience by conscious reflection and change, cf. Emergence, Self Organisation.

Epic – a large user Story that is eventually broken down into smaller stories. Too big to be completed in a single agile Sprint, Epics are useful as placeholders for lower priority requirements in the Backlog.

Error Proofing – building into the Value Stream the ability to prevent errors from occurring and/or the ability to immediately recognise errors when they occur (Baka Yoke).

Estimation – the process of agreeing on a size measurement for the Stories in a Product Backlog. Done by the Team, usually using Planning Poker.F

Feedback – Activity outputs that generate positive or negative reinforcements for related Activities. For instance, if a movie sells well, sales will generate others to visit that movie, a positive result. On the other hand, designing certain engines could increase air pollution, a negative result. Feedback is instructive and, when considered properly, can lead to better and more efficient Value Stream design.

Fibonacci Sequence – a mathematical sequence where the next number is result of adding previous two, creating ever-enlarging interval as numbers increase. Fibonacci is often used for Story Points, owing to the loss of accuracy in estimates when dealing with Epics.

Flow – the movement of items of value from one role to the next in a Value Stream.

Flow Continuous – delivery of value to customers (vs. big- batch, big-release, big-bang).

Four Ds (Agile) – the four Activities that comprise an Agile Story.
• Discover – acquisition of research information; identifying Sprint deliverables.
• Develop – developing plans for building and testing deliverables.
• Deliver – training Team members for executing and releasing deliverables.
• Debrief – overseeing results, adjusting Sprint deliverables and closing out stories.

Four Ds (AI) – the four stages of a cycle of continuous improvement associated with the “appreciative inquiry” approach.
Discover – perform a system-wide inquiry with a positive bias.
• Dream – create an outcomes based future vision from the discovered potential for change.
• Design – establishing the environment which the people of the organisation believe they can achieve the dream.
• Destiny – building momentum around the organisational learning, change, and adoption necessary to execute the design.

Future State Value Stream – a snapshot view of a Value Stream as it might appear to an observer at some point in the future.

Agile Glossary (G-L)


Gemba – a term for the workspace of an organisation. The workspace is an important concept in Lean process improvement because it is the location where customer value is created.


Hoshin Kanri – a term for a top down planning process that ties strategic direction to the vital few tactical initiatives for executing the desired strategy. Also known as Strategy or Policy Deployment.

How Domain – of Team as opposed to:”what” of product owner; a tactic used by Team to carry out Activities (i. e., how to win the good fight).


Impediment – anything that prevents the Team from meeting their potential (e.g. chairs are uncomfortable). If organisational, it is the Scrum Master’s responsibility to eliminate it. If it is internal to the Team, then they themselves should do away with it.

Impediment Backlog – a visible list of impediments in a priority order according to how seriously they are blocking the Team from productivity.

Information Radiator – a way to visibly track current progress of Agile project without interrupting other members for status.  See Kanban.

Inventory – material or information resources waiting to be consumed in the production of customer value.

Iron Triangle – when applied to project management indicates a situation where all three-project constraints of cost, scope, and time are fixed at the start of the project.

Iteration – a short (2-4 week) development cycle focused on delivering an increment of useful business functionality.


Just In Time – a system for producing and delivering the right items to the right place at the right time. The intent of a Just in\ Time process is to reduce inventory by introducing systems and processes that create ‘flow’ and minimises buffering. User Stories are often applied to support Just In Time processes on IT delivery Teams. The details of the requirement are defined at the latest appropriate moment reducing the level of inventory (requirements defined up-front) within the system.


Kaizen – a term for incremental improvement. Kaizen is a people and process oriented way of thinking as opposed to problem and solution oriented thinking.  See Kaizen workshop.

Kaizen Workshop – a term for workshops to identify and implement improvements to a Value Stream.  Lean Kaizens are typically a week in duration.

Kanban – a term for a visual indicator that indicates when to execute an Activity in a Value Stream.  A version of Kanban Boards may also be used as Information Radiators to provide visibility to an Agile Sprint Backlog and Work-in-process.

Kanban Signal Card – a device with clear, simple, visual controls.


Lead Time – the time from when a customer request is made for a product or service until the request is fulfilled.

Lean – a set of techniques for delivering more value with the same or less resources by eliminating waste across organisations and business processes.

Lean Office – an office environment embodying Lean Techniques.

Agile Glossary (M-R)


Mass Customisation – the ability to produce a high volume throughput that is tailored to every consumer of the product or service.

Monument – a role or tool within a Value Stream that is very expensive to operate and maintain. As a result the organisation feels it must insure the monument is always busy to maximise its return-on-investment. This can lead to the wastes of waiting, overproduction, transportation, Work-in-process, and underutilisation.

Muda – a wasteful, useless or ineffective Activity.


Non-value Add – a waste-producing element in an Activity or its component.


Outcome – a measureable result produced by a Value Stream that has value a customer would pay for.


PDCA – the four stages of a cycle of continuous improvement popularised by W. Edward Deming.
•    Plan – Define the problem, methods to measure it, and obtain management support for future stages.
•    Do – do the tests and prototypes to understand the problem, establish root causes, and investigate alternatives.
•    Check – analyse the results of the “do” stage to determine if a solution effectively resolves the problem while breaking nothing else.
•    Act – fully implement the identified solution.

Performance Principles – a set of standards aligning daily tactics with over-all organisational strategy and value statements. While value statements set standards for evaluating worth, principles set standards for achieving that worth. Values can be looked at the “what,” whereas principles can be seen as governing the “how.”

Pig – (arch.) a term for a Team member, the term offended some people so is now rarely used, cf. Chicken.

Planning Poker – a game used to apply estimates to stories; it uses the Delphi method of arriving at consensus.

Policy Intervention – the tendency for an initiative to be delayed, diluted, or defeated by the natural feedback responses of the system to the initiative itself.

Principle – a rule or standard; especially of good behaviour.

Product Backlog – a prioritised list of stories that are waiting to be worked on.

Product Item – an item that is found on the Backlog list, which contains Epics and stories, including stories to deal with technical issues.

Product Owner – a person whom holds the vision for the product and is responsible for maintaining, prioritising and updating the Product Backlog.

Productivity – the ratio of customer value produced per unit of labour. For example, productivity can be measured as the transactions per employee hours worked or burdened labour invested.

Process – designated rules for performing Activities, including when, how and what resources are required.

Pull – downstream customers drive upstream events (eliminates inventory).

Pull System – when a downstream role of a Value Stream pulls work from the role or store that is directly upstream. Eliminates inventory; opposite of Push System.

Push System – in which items are created according to a schedule, whether or not they are requested by the downstream pull. Items can be produced and stored in a Queue system while waiting to be requested.


Quality – a condition where the effectiveness and efficiency of value added work effects continuous improvement in a process, while simultaneously causing reduction and elimination of waste or non-value added work.

Queue – a physical store for items as they wait for the next action in a Value Stream.


Release Burndown Chart – graphical representation of work left to do toward release of a project.

Resource – the assets of the organisation including: people, processes, technologies, materials, and time.

Retrospective – a session with the Scrum Master and Team geared to reflect on the process and commit to more improvements.

Right Sizing – assigning resources to a Value Stream such that they are just sufficient to perform a balanced flow of work throughout that
Value Stream.

Role – a group of specific Activities assigned to one or more individuals of an organisation, self-contained and designed for completion without interruption or transference of ownership to anyone else.

Agile Glossary (S-Z)


Sashimi – an Agile concept of delivering value in slices rather than in layers/stages.  An Agile Story is sashimi because it can be proven it is done.  It is not possible to prove that a requirements document is done.

Scrum – an agile methodology involving a lightweight framework conceived to manage complex projects by delivering them incrementally in iterative time-boxed Sprints.

Scrum Master – a servant leader to the Team who eliminates obstacles and ensures the process runs smoothly, making the Team as efficient and effective as possible.

Scrum Meetings – story Time, Planning, Review, Retro-spective, Daily Scrum.

Segregate Complexity – establishing parallel branches in a Value Stream based on the complexity of the work performed. Each branch can then be optimised for the complexity of work assigned.

Self Organisation – point of view maintaining that those closest to work know how to accomplish work in the best way.  So set goals, boundaries and give them space to make requisite tactical decisions and implement their goals, cf. Emergence, Empiricism.

Seven Office Wastes – seven major non-value added office Activities.
•    Defects – Mistake requiring rework.
•    Underutilisation – Office resources not used at capacity.
•    Transportation – Moving resources to another location.
•    Waiting – Defining resource inactivity.
•    Variation – Use of different methodologies for producing same value.
•    Work-in-process – A product or service commenced, but incomplete.
•    Overproduction – Producing anything before it is needed.

Silo – the functional component of an organisation. In terms of key views, a “silo view” is the opposite of a “system-wide view,” owing to the limited communication often arising between different silos.

Six Sigma – a statistical approach for measuring variability.

Span-of-coordination – the scope of individual or Team’s leadership and support responsibilities. Utilised in conjunction with span-of-control (which refers to the authority of the responsible unit) span-of-coordination helps understand how system-wide performance of Value Streams can be maintained.

Spike – a brief, time-boxed piece of research (usually technical) on a single Story that provides just enough information to enable that Story to be estimated.

Sprint – a single time-boxed Iteration of an Agile project.  Sprints may be of any duration (i.e. 2 to 4 weeks) but typically are of a fixed duration for every Iteration of a project.

Sprint Backlog – an inventory of user stories that have been selected for an Agile Sprint.

Sprint Burndown – a daily chart that visibly indicates the amount of work left in Sprint.

Sprint Goal – aka Sprint Theme, the key focus of the work for a single Sprint.

Sprint Planning – a meeting of the Product Owner and the Team in which the Sprint is planned and a commitment is agreed upon.

Sprint Task – one small item of work toward the completion of one Story.

State – static view of a process at any one moment.

Stakeholder – any party that has an interest in the product/service produced by an organisation’s Value Stream.

Stakeholder Value – the worth of the Stakeholder’s interest in the product/service produced by an organisation’s Value Stream. Sometimes used interchangeably with customer value.

Store – a place to store the inventory or Work-in-process of a Value Stream. Stores may include information systems storing information, Queue storing paper, or bins storing materials.

Story – An Item representing a project or product requirement, typically stated in the form:
As a <user or role>,
I want <business functionality>,
So that <business benefit>.

Story Point – a unit of measurement applied to the size of a Story, cf. Fibonacci Sequence.

Story Points – a method for estimating the size of an Agile Story used as an alternative to estimating the Story in hours. Story Points compare one Story to another to determine a relative size and then assign points denoting that size.  The anticipated velocity of a Sprint Team is then used to estimate how many Story Points they can deliver in a Sprint.

Story Time – the regular work session where items on the Backlog are discussed, refined and estimated and the Backlog is trimmed and prioritised. (See Sprint Task).

System-Wide View – looking at the big picture of organisational performance by looking at each complex interaction between Activities intended to produce customer value.


Task – a discrete unit of work.  Agile stories are broken down into a collection of tasks that must be performed to complete the Story in one Sprint.  Tasks are typically sized to represent 4 to 8 hours of labour.

Taskboard – a wall chart depicting a Sprint Team’s work progress by moving cards and sticky notes across the board.

Task List – the tasks needed to complete the set of stories committed to a Sprint.

Team – the development Team, responsible for committing to work and delivering and driving the product forward from a tactical perspective.

Team Member – any member of the Team including database admins, graphic artists, writers, designers, testers, and developers.

Throughput – the velocity of work performed by a Value Stream. Throughput counts the units of customer value produced for a given time period.

Time-Boxed – there are three constraints of any project: cost, scope, and time.  A time-boxed project fixes time and allows cost and scope to vary to meet the time.  An Agile project is delivered in time-boxed Iterations that are fixed in calendar time.

Timeboxing – setting duration for every Activity and having it last exactly that (i.e. neither meetings nor Sprint are ever lengthened – ever).

Theme – A related collection of Agile stories.


User Story – see Story.


Value – something of worth in usefulness or importance to the possessor. Note that value is determined by the recipient of the product/service not the producer.

Value Add – the Activities that transform the resources of an organisation into a product or service someone is willing to pay for.

Value Priorities – the relative ranking of the Stakeholder values generated by a Value Stream.

Value Statement – establishes the way or direction that Stakeholder worth or usefulness is created by an organisation. Value statements say what the organisation is committed to do. In contrast, principle statements say how the organisation is going to do it.

Value Stream – a holistic collection of value added and non-value added Activities that are chained together to create customer value in terms of a product or service.

VOC (Voice of the Customer) – a principle of ensuring that the ‘real’ customers requirements have been solicited and are well understood. The voice of the customer informs and determines the specification and qualities of the product.

Value Stream Mapping – a Value Stream map is a tool that is used to identify all of the process steps within a Value Stream for a given product. The Value Stream map can be used to identify process improvement opportunities       by documenting opportunities to reduce the time taken for value-add Activities, minimise non-value-add process steps and to ruthlessly eliminate waste.

Velocity – the rate at which a Team completes work, usually measured in Story Points.

Vision Statement – a high-level description of a product which includes who it is for, why it is necessary and what differentiates it from similar products.

Visual Controls – the methods to see and manage the real-time flow of a Value Stream.


Wait Time – the duration of time that a resource is not being utilized to create customer value.

Waste – anything that does not add to or support the creation of customer value. Note that Waste is determined by the recipient of the product/service not the producer.  See the Seven Office Wastes.

Waterfall Project Management – an approach to project management named by the discrete gate handoffs from one project stage to the next.  Example waterfall stages are requirement, functional, design, develop, test, implement.

Work-In-Process – products or services still in development. For example batches of reports that are waiting in a Queue for final review are Work-in-process. Also known as WIP.

What – “the What” is a term used to describe the domain of the product owner, as distinct for the Team, cf. How. Can also be described as strategy (i.e. what’s the best order for battles).

Work – the execution of Activities that consume resources and produce a product or service.

Workspace – the place where Stakeholder value is generated.

WIP (Work-in-progress) – any work that has not completed but has already incurred a capital cost of the organisation. Software developed but not yet deployed to production could be deemed as WIP.

XP eXtreme Programming – a set of software development principles that compliment lean-agile management techniques