Definitions Are Agreements

Self-management is a game. Like any game, self-management requires very clear agreements.

To play any game, we must all first agree on the goals, the rules, and the progress-tracking aspects.

Since the good game has opt-in participation, the opportunity to play is presented as invitation.



Communication using human languages is, itself, a kind of game.

The goal of the game is the clear sending and clear receiving of clear messages.

The rules include information about what language is used, and the definition of specific words used.

We track progress by the volume, the frequency and the quality of the messages sent and received. We also track progress by how engaging the conversation does (or does not) become. By the progression of topics discussed. By the additional agreements made as a result of the sending and receiving of these messages. And so on.

These ideas quickly become useful when preparing for change in organizations. Let’s apply these ideas now.


Agile Change

If an org is moving in an Agile direction, it is essential to define what “Agile” actually means, and agree to use that definition across the entire set of people affected. If anyone disagrees, we must ask what it takes to get them in. Where definitions are concerned, we must agree if the game of communicating is to be experienced as a good one.

Likewise, if the practices to experiment with include Scrum, it is essential to precisely define what the word “Scrum” actually means, and begin using that definition consistently when sending and receiving messages (communicating) about that subject.

The definition of words constitute important agreements without which effective communication becomes very difficult. In OSA, we define “Agile” to mean the 4 values and 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto. This brings tremendous clarity to the task of communicating. The clear definition reduces one of the many anxieties that come with the liminality that change creates. A big part of the pre-work of any change is to begin the process of agreement on the rules of the game. Within this context the definition of essential terminology is itself essential to a good start.

And so it is, that the precise definitions of essential words are in fact the most important agreements, as they are the foundation of any agreements that follow.

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