Agile Glossary

All the terms you wondered about and everything else!

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Acceptance Criteria

Acceptance Criteria - Included as part of a user story, acceptance criteria focuses on helping the team understand when it is done with that story. 3-5 bullet points is often all it takes. Definition of Done focuses on policies that apply to all user stories. 

Agile Coach

Agile Coach - “someone who takes systems beyond getting agile practices up and running, into their deliberate and joyful pursuit of high performance.” Agile Coaching Institute

Agile Manifesto

Agile Manifesto -  a document that sets out the key values and principles behind the Agile philosophy. The manifesto was the vision of a group of 17 software developers who saw a different way to work with their teams and deliver. It is built one 4 key values and 12 principles for agile software development.

Agile Team

Agile Team - A cross-functional group of 5-11 people who define, build, test and deliver value together in a short time box (see Iteration).


Antipattern - A solution to a problem that initially appears to be the appropriate solution but leads to bad consequences and is highly counterproductive. Example: Daily stand-ups that are status updates (boring for everyone except the speaker) instead of planning sessions (engaging for the whole team).



Backlog - This could be a team or product backlog depending on the nature of the work the team was formed to create.. A backlog is a list of ideas a team might pull to deliver as capacity and value definition make it a priority. Once pulled an idea is moved into the Iteration (Sprint) Backlog. 

Backlog Refinement

Backlog Refinement - A team meeting with the focus on having ready (see Definition of Ready) backlog items for the next planning horizon. A common practice is for backlog refinement to occur mid-sprint to allow questions to be answered before Sprint Planning. 


Daily Standup

Daily Standup - Also known as Daily Scrum for teams practicing Scrum. A short (15 minutes) meeting where the team assesses progress towards the Sprint Goal. The meeting should occur at the same time and place every working day of the Sprint. Adjustments are made where necessary to address deviations from the plan to accomplish the Sprint Goal. 

Definition of Done

Definition of Done - a list of all the items that are completed when a team says a backlog item is “Done”. This often includes items like testing, documentation, demo to stakeholders and automated testing. Great teams build rigor around their Definition of Done (also known as Definition of Quality) to ensure they build quality in early. Done and ready examples

Definition of Ready (DoR)

Definition of Ready (DoR) - Entry criteria for an increment of value to be ready to be pulled by a team at a Sprint boundary. DoR is unique to each team and should evolve based on team learnings. DoR is often used by teams in backlog refinement as the team focuses on having backlog items ready for next Sprint Planning.

Design Thinking

Design Thinking - A methodology for creative problem solving based on the idea that everyone can be creative. Design thinking modes include: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test. A great Design Thinking pattern is to brainstorm multiple solutions to a problem before experimenting with one solution to validate the initial problem was solved.



Epic - A large idea. Typically, a backlog item that would take multiple iterations for a team or multiple teams to deliver. 


Estimation - Covered in Relative Estimation

Extreme Programming (XP)

Extreme Programming (XP) - Developed by Kent Beck, it is an Agile framework intended to improve quality and responsiveness to change. Widely known for taking conventional programming practices and “turn them up to eleven” (Watch “This is Spinal Tap” if you love obscure movies from the 80’s). Some practices of XP are system metaphor, pair programming (or mob programming) and shift left testing where tests are written before any code.



Facilitation - A fluid process using a variety of tools, techniques, and activities to empower participants, create clarity, invite collaboration and increase commitment to the solutions created by the group in order to maximize productivity. (Agile Coaching Institute)


Information Radiators

Information Radiators - Think something simple, BIG and highly visible that radiates key information to a team and its stakeholders. For collocated teams this could be a task board, Kanban board or a burndown chart. For distributed (virtual) teams, this could be an automated dashboard on a Confluence page or team Wiki. It could also be your Zoom virtual background!


INVEST - Think of the acronym as a checklist to validate entry criteria for Definition of Ready. Backlog items should be Independent, Negotiable, Valuable, Estimable, Sized Appropriately (Small) and Testable

Iteration (or Sprint)

Iteration (or Sprint) - The heartbeat (rhythm) of an adaptive team. Iterations start and end on a cadence where one Iteration starts immediately following the conclusion of another. The outcome of an Iteration is a potentially shippable increment of value. The default Iteration duration is 2 weeks. 

Iteration (Sprint) Backlog

Iteration (Sprint) Backlog - A list of product backlog items that the team has pulled into the current iteration during Iteration Planning. Completion of the committed Iteration Backlog will successfully deliver the Iteration Goal.



Kanban - A Lean framework that allows work to be visualized in a flow and constrains how much Work In Process (WIP) is allowed at a time so work is forced to complete instead of building inventory of unfinished value. Kanban translates to “visual card” from Japanese. Try it with your kids to get them to do homework and chores - it’s amazing!


Law of Two Feet

Law of Two Feet - If you find yourself in a situation where you are either not providing or getting value, take your two feet somewhere that you will get or provide value. This can be a healthy principle applied to team working agreements. Be sure to make it know that you are leaving, why you are leaving and how someone might contact you should you be needed later in the discussion.


Paired Programming

Paired Programming - An eXtreme Programming technique in which 2 developers use one keyboard to code (with no pushing or shoving). The “driver” (whose hands are on the keyboard) is actively coding while the “navigator” is paying attention to code quality, simplicity and considering ways to reuse components. Paired programming takes code review to an extreme. Taken to an even further extreme, some teams “mob program”.


Personas - Fictional characters representing the various people who might use the product being built. With a focus on understanding the customer, the use of personas helps teams empathize with the problems they face to ideate on ways to create innovative solutions.

Product Backlog

Product Backlog - The prioritized list of work that the team draws from to get to their Product Vision. Product Backlogs are always evolving as the team learns from their customers. 

Product Owner

Product Owner - A member of the Agile team who is responsible for representing the customer by prioritizing and accepting work that is delivered by the team. 

Product Roadmap

Product Roadmap - A forecast of deliverables and milestones for the next 3-9 months connecting strategy (Vision) to the tactical (Sprint and Daily Planning). Product roadmaps are plans, not commitments (yes, you read it here, feel free to send this definition to anyone in need of it).


Relative Estimation

Relative Estimation - Comparing one job to another based on what is known. If I have already painted one section of my house and it took me 4 hours to complete that job, I might determine if the other sides of the house are similar. If so, I can easily and quickly estimate the total job size with some degree of confidence. 


Retrospective - A team event focused on celebrating success and identifying ways to improve. This could be people or process improvements. Here are some Retrospective list of ideas and tips.



Scrum - A lightweight framework for developing and sustaining complex products. The framework consists of 5 values, 3 roles, 5 events, and 3 artifacts. 

Scrum Master

Scrum Master - Servant leader and coach focused in service to the team, the Product Owner and the organization. Here's your Scrum Master checklist.

Scrum of Scrums

Scrum of Scrums - A cadence-based event that can be valuable when multiple teams are aligned to delivering a common vision. Typically focused on managing inter-team dependencies and risks.

Sprint Backlog

Sprint Backlog - One of the three Scrum artifacts that includes the Sprint Goal, the set of Product Backlog items pulled into the sprint by the team and a plan for how the team will deliver throughout the sprint. 

Sprint Planning

Sprint Planning - The first of five Scrum events, this one starts the sprint with the team defining and aligning to 1) Why is this sprint valuable? 2) What can be done this sprint? 3) How will the chosen work get done? Here are some useful sprint planning tips.

Story Mapping

Story Mapping - A Design Thinking tool for building a backlog holistically rather than on the parts (features) of a product. The focus is on the user’s journey. It involves thinking about the steps a user will take in order to accomplish their goal when using the product. 

Story Points

Story Points - The relative level of effort and complexity estimated to get a backlog item to “done”. The entire agile team has input into the story points and they are NOT an estimate of time (because humans usually screw up time estimates...we’re much better at relative estimates).

Story Splitting

Story Splitting - The process of decomposing larger efforts into smaller chunks to improve flow of value delivery. Small batches are great, large batches are evil. 

Sustainable Pace

Sustainable Pace - The pace at which a team can consistently deliver value with built-in quality. Teams will often use metrics like their iteration Velocity or Capacity to help determine what is and what is not sustainable in order to strike the balance between sandbagging and overcommitting. I like to think of a runner’s pace. I might be able to run a 7-minute mile but that doesn’t mean I can run a 5k race in less than 22 minutes. But, if I am constantly training I can understand what my pace should be given certain variables and the outcome I am trying to achieve. 


Team Agreement

Team Agreement - A living list of items that the team members all hold themselves accountable to. Team Agreements can be especially useful for new teams or teams that have conflict to help align everyone and set expectations.

Three C’s

Three C’s - Best practice for user stories. Card, Conversation, Confirmation. The story is concise enough to fit on a 3x5 Card (when written in sharpie). Stories are placeholders for Conversations, not contracts. Confirmation is another way of thinking about Acceptance Criteria - how will we confirm that the story is done?

Three Amigos

Three Amigos - Three people with business (customer/user perspective), development and testing perspectives collaborating to deliver an increment of value together. Most definitions position this activity to 3 people working together during backlog refinement.


User Story

User Story - An increment of value written from the voice of the customer/user. Written in the format of “As a <customer/user>, I want <function> so that <value>”. Here is a practical example, “As an policyholder, I want to pay my premium online so that I do not have to buy stamps.” Check out glossary terms INVEST and Acceptance Criteria to dive a bit deeper into the user story concepts. 



Velocity - The capacity of the team per sprint, generally measured in Story Points. Teams use actual historical velocity to forecast what backlog items they could likely complete in the next few sprints. Velocity should NEVER be compared between teams (the agile gods become very unhappy when this happens) because each team has their own story point baseline and would be an apples to oranges comparison.



Waterfall - A project-based process traditionally used to develop software in which all requirements were gathered up front then handed off to architecture to design the target system, after which developers coded the entire system and testing was done just before a large release.  This approach does not work well in complex environments with many unknowns and risks.  Waterfall projects often culminate in unhappy customers (due to limited feedback), poor quality (due to attempting to fix date and scope) and follow-on projects to address future enhancements and quality issues.

WIP - Work in Process

WIP - Work in Process. The number of things that a team has started but not yet completed. Ideally teams limit their WIP so they ensure they “stop starting new things and start finishing them”.

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