The Agile glossary – 20 terms you need to know 

If you’re new to Agile, there may be lots of terms we use that are new to you.

That’s why we’ve put together this handy Agile glossary, so you know what we’re talking about! 

But just remember, at its core, Agile is all about open communication, collaboration, transparency and trust.

Agile

Agile is an iterative approach to project management that originated in the software industry.

Instead of relying on long roadmaps and big-bang launches, Agile allows you to deliver smaller chunks of work, helping you get value sooner and more frequently. 

Agile is all about focusing on quality and creating something that actually addresses your customer’s needs. 

But it’s not just about business value. It’s about the people, we’re real humans and we want to have good interactions with each other. 

Agile manifesto

The Agile Manifesto identifies the key values behind Agile adoption. These serve as a guide to help embrace this radical and revolutionary methodology. 

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.

Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Working software over comprehensive documentation

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

Agile mindset

An Agile mindset describes the thought process involved in being Agile. 

It’s all about being understanding, collaborative, and flexible – while aspiring to deliver results that matter.

It’s not just about going through the motions and doing Agile ceremonies – it’s about embodying the Agile manifesto and principles. An Agile mindset understands the “why” of Agile, not just the “how”. 

Agile principles

There are 12 principles behind the Agile Manifesto that guide and support teams: 

  1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  10. Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
  11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.

Backlog

Your backlog is a prioritised list of tasks waiting to be done, that aren’t in this current sprint. 

It shows you where you’re going, what’s coming up next, and how much there is left to achieve. 

We display the backlog on our project Trello boards – but this isn’t always a static thing.
We need to respond to change, so sometime we’ll reprioritise the tasks in our backlog accordingly. 

Definition of done

The definition of done is where it’s agreed on what items need to be completed before a task can be considered complete. 

Why do we need a definition of done? So everyone involved in the project knows what is expected of them. What finished actually looks like, and what success looks like.
It is all about transparency and a desire for success. 

Estimation

Agile estimation is a way of us explaining the time and effort needed to complete a task. Sometimes, this might be done in story points, rather than time, and the higher the number of story points the more effort is needed to complete the task. 

Failing fast

We like to fail fast. This means that we’re gathering feedback throughout a project and can quickly identify and rectify any issues – before they have time to cause big issues. This is where pivoting and iterating comes into play! This leads us nicely to the next item on our Agile glossary. 

Iteration

We take an iterative approach to communications, which means we do things repeatedly (like sprints) but we tweak as we go based on new findings and feedback. More traditional marketing and communications follow a waterfall approach, which is more linear. 

Kanban

Kanban is an Agile framework that relies on real-time visibility of tasks and transparency of the tasks for the whole team. To do this, you display all the tasks on a Kanban board which might be on the wall with Post-its or digitally using software like Trello. 

MVP

MVP means Minimum Viable Product. It is where you launch a version of a product, campaign, or feature that satisfies the needs of early customers in a way you can gather feedback so that in the next iteration you can make the right improvements. 

OKRs

OKR is an acronym for Objectives and Key Results. They help you achieve your organisation’s mission and vision while keeping employees engaged.

Objectives = the goal you want to achieve, these should be aspirational, motivational, and qualitative  

The Key Results = the results we need to achieve while working towards the objective, there are usually only 2-5 key results per objective  

Retrospectives

Retrospectives are an opportunity for your team to reflect on the past to improve your future. They can be in many formats, Retrospective Sailing, The Four L’s, Mad, Sad, Glad etc. 

But whatever the format, all retrospectives are a time for reflection and open communication. 

Scope creep

Scope creep refers to when new tasks or deliverables (outside of the agreed work) are requested. These unforeseen changes affect deadlines, budgets, and client satisfaction.
Having clearly defined deliverables helps alleviate this problem. 

Scrum

Scrum is an Agile project management framework. It’s all about teamwork, accountability, and working towards a goal in an iterative way.  

Sprint

A sprint is a time-boxed period of time when we work through an agreed list of tasks. They’re normally short periods of time and we often work like to work in 2-week sprints. 

Standup

We hold standup meetings where the team discusses what they’re working on. We like to cover the work we just finished, what we’re working on, and anything we’re blocked on.
They’re called standups as the team stands up for them, helping to keep them short and effective. 

Trello

Trello is our software of choice for our Kanban boards. It helps us map and manage our projects, workflow, and task tracking. It also means you can have real-time visibility of our project, at all times, wherever you are in the world. 

User story / mapping

User stories are a way of describing the smallest amount of work we’re trying to achieve. 

It’s the end goal we’re working towards, not a feature or tactic we’re employing. The key thing is that we’re considering our users/audience and what they want. 

Work in progress

In Agile, we like to limit work in progress. By working on fewer things at once, it means we can focus and get more things finished, more quickly. Let’s limit the number of plates we’re spinning at once. 

Is there something missing from our Agile glossary that you want to know more about? Let us know!