ScrumMaster or TaskMaster?
Maybe better-known until recently as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, the principle of linguistic relativity states that:
“the structure of a language affects the ways in which its speakers conceptualize their world, i.e. their world view, or otherwise influence their cognitive processes.”
Whether we realise it or not, software development has a language all its own, and Agile software development a variant of that again. Linguistic relativity suggests that the structural terms we choose to use affects the way we conceptualise our world.
One of the most pernicious and unexamined of these is the term “task”. The connotations implicit in this term include :
These connotations have unfortunate implications for developers and development teams everywhere. Put simply, by using the “task” as the atomic unit of work management and control, people automatically and pervasively assume that they have to do some work – e.g. spend some time and effort – to see the task completed.
In our work, we have long (since 1995) eschewed the “task” as the atomic unit of work, preferring instead to use the term “artefact”. Doing so has afforded us the following advantages:
- Focus on outputs, rather than inputs
- Focus on completion (90% of an artefact is no artefact at all)
- Avoidance of unnecessary drudgery (work for the sake of working, busywork)
- Closer fit with quantification of “quality attributes” (cf Gilb)
Examine Your Language
Competitive Engineering ~ Tom Gilb