Definitions Are Agreements

Language is important, especially when everyone is being triggered by changes in the way authority is distributed. Agile “transformations” are no exception.

Also very important are agreements. Without agreements, nothing good can happen. So start your coaching by testing the willingness of the team(s) and the wider organization to make some agreements with itself. Agreements are commitments.

And all of this is very big deal, I assure you.

So here is what you do. You start by presenting the Agile Manifesto and explaining it. Use your imagination. Teach the 4 and the 12.

Once your audience receives this teaching, ask them to agree for say, the next N months (something reasonable for N, like “six) that THIS Agile Manifesto THING is the definition of Agile. That, when we discuss “Agile”, we are discussing “this.” That the definition of the word “Agile” when we use it….IS the Agile Manifesto. That when we say “Agile,”, THIS is what we mean. Those 4 values and 12 principles.

Then, so the same exact thing for the word “Scrum” and use the Scrum Guide as the definition of “Scrum.”

As a coach, you will quickly learn:

  • How much confusion there is in the organization about these fundamental terms;
  • How little (or how MUCH) the people in the organizations are actually willing to actually agree on;
  • How little willingness there actually is to execute on good Agile and good Scrum;
  • Who is “in” and who is “out.” Who is supporting, who is resisting. Very simple.

As you coach, always frame the use of these definitions as “temporary” and “just for now.” This way, you reduce the objections by being reasonable. By being kind. Be being a good teacher. A good leader. A reasonable person: it’s not FOREVER. Just for now, lets use these definitions. Let’s “agree” to them.

If anyone disagrees and absolutely cannot get in, ask them what has to change (what has to be TRUE that is not yet TRUE) for them to get in. Ask them what it will take to get them in. Work it out. Get them in.

Now, when you get everyone in, when everyone agrees to these two definitions, you have really achieved something: something very GREAT:

  • There is a shared agreement, and everyone is accountable to that agreement;
  • You now speak with much more clarity when you say the words “Agile” and “Scrum;”
  • You have set up the entire organization to be much more clear about what it says to itself;
  • You have helped them achieve an agreement ABOUT SOMETHING VERY IMPORTANT to success with Agile;
  • You have greatly expanded the “adjacent possible” for this organization’s transformation.

There is a method to your madness here. In the next step, you will invite them to play a game.

A very serious game. A game you can all win together. A cooperative game.


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