Language is important – What is in a name?

I am very interested in language and its effect on people. Recently a few people have commented on how they feel the release cycle of agile is relentless and they feel a pressure. The terminology used is the word Sprint. Sprint typically 2 weeks is used as the word to describe the timebox the teams work in. Sprint in peoples mind converts to run like hell, or that is the observation of one of my colleagues. Counter to this in agile we also talk about a sustainable pace and we shouldn’t be sprinting, which we can only do for a limited amount of time. Not even Usain Bolt can sprint forever.


We should be adopting a marathon like pace, in agile we talk value long lived teams working at a sustainable pace together. What if we changed the terminology used to Timebox or Iteration what would be the observed change? Who knows, experiment accepted.


The agile manifesto principle: Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.


In a previous role I was asked to change behaviours around the usage of test environments. There was an existing environments Scrum, this company didn’t use Scrum!


One of the change patterns i used was to change the name form the environments scrum to the “Route to Live Development Huddle”. Wordy i know but this worked. A meeting which had very little value and was poorly attended became a visual, fun huddle and was held up as the one community which was really working. In the first week after the chnage 5 Developers turned up to the huddle when previously none had attended. Although i did use many other change patterns, changing the name was a really useful tool.


My question for you is how might the language you are using be affecting behaviours and do you need to change your language to change behaviours.


I first got the idea from attending a Test Bash conference in Brighton from a speaker called Martin Hynie @vds4 on twitter. Thank you sir.

HELLO in eight different languages


One comment

  1. I concur, the ‘sprint’ is one of my least favourite terms in Scrum for this very reason, I’ve often said it should be a marathon, or perhaps a stage (as in a stage of a 3 week cycle race).

    Language and naming is so often the most important, yet difficult and neglected part of software development, both in process and code its self. I like how you’ve shown that just renaming something can get more buy in, showing the stakeholder’s the value in the more descriptive name.


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