There is something I see over and over again whenever people are discussing different methods. I go here with very generic “method” label on purpose as I don’t want to limit this to agile and lean world only. People pay much attention to the choice of words when they describe their ideas.
Let me give you an example. Recent Al Shalloway’s post discussing MMFs starts with a distinction between MVP (Minimal Viable Product), MVF (Minimal Viable Feature), MMR (Minimal Marketable Release) and MMF (Minimal Marketable Feature). I don’t want to go into this discussion, but the simple fact people use all these different definitions proves that they really care about wording.
I’ve made similar observation listening to David Anderson describing why he chose specific terms to describe his concepts and what changes he’s going to make in his next publications.
I see this pattern even when people appreciate a specific choice of words someone used to share their message.
And I don’t get it.
OK, that’s not that simple. I understand why people pay so much attention to naming. They try to communicate their thoughts as precisely as possible. They try to describe their message in a detailed and clear way so everyone gets it. Cool. That’s perfect.
Yet still, I don’t get it.
Here’s why. I’m not a native speaker. I can communicate in English (or so I hope) and have even advanced discussions on subjects I’m interested in. At the same I don’t understand all the nuances of the language, something which likely comes totally effortlessly for natives. It basically means that, despite the effort of our thought leaders, I sometime just miss the point they addressed with putting so much attention to naming. It’s just lost in translation.
When we are on translation, well, the problem is even worse. Whenever I speak publicly or train in Polish (my native language) not only do I struggle with my (lack of) understanding of nuances of English language used in sources but also with translating the message precisely enough. Unfortunately vast majority of these nuances is hardly translatable which makes the situation pretty bad.
Of course I can’t say for every other language in the world but I wouldn’t say Polish language is that special, so my wild-ass guess would be that many others non-native English speakers face similar issue.
In such cases my solution is to use any name which seems sort of suitable but add a longer explanation. The name itself isn’t that important. What is important is the meaning people attach to it, which by the way, we have only that much control over.
And that is why I don’t really get this striving for perfection in naming.
I see the right explanation of whichever words we choose to use as way more important challenge. I can say capability, or throughput, or thingamajig. As long as people know what hides under the name it’s going to be fine.
This is by the way something I realized a couple of years ago on a session dedicated to translating Agile Manifesto to Polish. Even though probably we all understood the same values we found it really hard to put it into words of our native language in a way that was satisfactory to all involved.
My realization was: “Whatever. As long as people understand the values wording doesn’t matter that much.”
My appeal to thought leaders: whenever you are fine tuning the naming, remember that there are many people who just won’t get the difference. Good explanation is way better than good naming.
And we still suck at explaining even basic concepts.
You guys may think this whole translation thing is a non-issue and maybe for you that is correct. Remember though there are big parts of the world where English is neither the only nor the first language people use. It’s worth to remind about that from time to time. So I do.