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Use a Glossary: Clarify the terms before building the propositions

What are the terms we use in this workshop or session? What does this word mean in this context? What is our bounded context?

For any kind of session, encounter, or workshop, you must first clarify the terms before moving further, preparing, and talking about the arguments and the propositions.

Any kind of session or workshop uses some terms, the means to describe some of the items in the context of the workshop.

When a term shows up, you should ask: are we clear about the meaning of this term?

For example: “we must improve the lead time for our work items.”

You should verify the terms in this sentence:

What work items are we talking about? What is a work item for us?

And then you should clarify the other term used in the sentence: What is lead time?

Many times, for not clarifying a term, the session or the workshop takes much longer, and have unsatisfactory results.

What happens is that the conversation moves too fast towards the arguments and propositions, but the terms are not clear. No argument or proposition should be formulated on top a term that is not clear to all participants.

People might strongly disagree even though they agree. All of it because of the lack of clarity in a term.

For example: Mary will say: the lead time for a work item should never be more than two days. While John is saying: a lead time of a week would be a target our team!

Both used the same term: work item. But Mary means a small development task while John considers a work item to be a feature released.

Instead of talking about the arguments and propositions (less than two days or a week for our team), you should clarify the term, and perhaps add it to the Glossary. Once the term is clear (for example: work item for us are the development tasks), then you move forward to the arguments and propositions.

As a workshop facilitator, you should have a flipchart (on presencial sessions) or a designated area (for online workshops) with the word Glossary as a title. People adds notes clarifying terms whenever it is appropriate.

You should find a good balance between moving too fast without clarifying any term and moving too slow for talking about all the terms.


This post is part of a series of posts on inception related activities.


Paulo Caroli

Paulo Caroli is the author of the best-selling book “Lean Inception: How to Align People and Build the Right Product” (the first on a series of books on business agility). He's also the creator of FunRetrospectives.com , a site and book about retrospectives, futurospectives and team building activities. Caroli writes on this blog frequently. Receive the next post in your email. Sign up here.
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