\u201cEvery act of communication is a miracle of translation.\u201d \u2015 Ken Liu\n\nHave you ever had the experience of working or living in a culture with a completely different language that you don\u2019t understand?\u00a0 This can be a bit disorienting and challenging.\u00a0 Simple tasks like ordering food become complex and time consuming.\u00a0 You feel a bit lost and embarrassed as you try to muddle through, and perhaps you end up with a sandwich instead of the salad you were trying to order. Perhaps you simply sigh and think, \u201cthis is not what I really wanted, but it will have to do.\u201d\nNow let\u2019s consider our business partners.\u00a0 How much do they really understand technology, and what we do?\u00a0 The answer in many cases is that they don\u2019t. \u00a0They certainly do not have the training and background in technology that technologists do.\u00a0 Just like you in a foreign land, they may try to bluff their way through.\u00a0 However, their understanding is at best incomplete compared to our own.\u00a0 And, all too often, they simply settle for what they get.\nNow consider an average business customer\u2019s interest level in what we do.\u00a0 They are \u201chungry\u201d for the technology solutions that we can deliver but speak a different language.\u00a0 This is a challenge for every technology team, and often results in misunderstanding and confusion.\u00a0 How can we overcome these challenges?\nTranslation\nAgile and Scrum place a high value on communication and collaboration.\u00a0 An important part of this is our ability to translate and interpret for our business customers who are not technically savvy.\u00a0 Whether you are working in an agile cadence or not, translating is an important part of what technologists do. \u00a0This is how the Translator Pattern in Leadership Patterns for Software and Technology Professionals states this:\n\nTranslator calls us to effectively translate and tailor technical content for nontechnical audiences. To many of our stakeholders, we unfortunately appear to be speaking a foreign language. They don\u2019t understand the jargon and terms we use, and what we do is a bit confusing and something of a mystery.\u00a0 What they care about is an effective translation of our work so that they are informed and effective in their daily work.\n\nSo, whether you are in a hallway conversation or a boardroom meeting with business stakeholders, remember to translate effectively the details of what you are doing.\u00a0 Avoiding highly technical terms and keeping the conversation focused on the business impact and results will help.\u00a0 To know if you are doing this effectively, watch your audience.\u00a0 If they mentally check out and disengage, chances are you may be speaking a foreign language to them.\u00a0\nAgile methods provide additional levers to help us improve communication and our ability to deliver business value.\u00a0 To understand how the improved communication occurs, let\u2019s consider a critical agile role \u2013 that of the Product Owner - and the power of the sprint review.\nConsensus and proxy\nIn Scrum, the role of the Product Owner accomplishes several goals that assist with translation.\u00a0 The Scrum Guide tells us that:\n\n\u201cThe Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the product and the work of the Development Team (and)\nis the sole person responsible for managing the Product Backlog (prioritized requirements).\nTo succeed, the entire organization must respect his or her decisions.\u201d\n\nOne of the beautiful aspects of Scrum is that the role of the Product Owner centers much of the translation and communication that needs to occur from the business into a single role.\u00a0 The Product Owner is a single, empowered proxy to speak for the business.\u00a0 Compared to approaches that involve obtaining business consensus with large and sometimes diverse groups (as I discussed in "Trust, partnership and agile"), this greatly simplifies our work.\u00a0 It enables the Scrum team to make these decisions quickly, as opposed to taking days or weeks to reach a decision.\u00a0 This clarity of focus drives the real-time feedback that teams need to deliver competitive advantage, and this directly translates to speed of execution.\u00a0\nThe power of \u201cwe can do that?!\u201d\nThe Sprint Review in Scrum is an opportunity for the team, Product Owner, and other key stakeholders to review what has been accomplished during the sprint.\u00a0 During the review, the team has an opportunity to look at the working software and discuss its marketplace potential and any changes to what they do next.\u00a0\nOne of the magical things that often happens during a Sprint Review is you will hear comments like \u201cwe can do that?!\u201d from business stakeholders.\u00a0 Usually what follows is a conversation that is both creative and refreshing.\u00a0 Everyone begins to think about and focus on \u201cwhat if\u201d possibilities for dramatically improving and optimizing the way work is done.\u00a0 These conversations spark creative dialogue and an exchange of ideas that continuously improves our product and adapts to market change.\u00a0 The business stops \u201csettling\u201d for what they can get, engages in creating real-time competitive advantage, and along the way begins to value and partner with technology teams.\nThis iterative and adaptive process is a creative alternative to methods of technology development where we work on requirements developed weeks, months, or years ago.\u00a0 Many times, these requirements have hidden limitations.\u00a0 Business conditions may have changed, and they might be outdated.\u00a0 They may introduce well-meaning but unintended constraints.\u00a0 Perhaps most importantly, they are often the work of a single author who ignores the possibilities of synergy when bright minds interact and discuss a challenge.\u00a0\nTranslation and miracles\nSometimes those of us in technology feel like the business is asking for the impossible and wants a miracle.\u00a0 Part of the reason this is the case is because they do not understand what we do, and we do not understand what they really want.\u00a0 Organizational structures, email, technical jargon, constant change, and schedule demands erect barriers to creativity and understanding.\u00a0 When we begin to value direct communication, clarity, and synergy in developing solutions, amazing things can happen.\u00a0 Agile methods point us in the right direction.\nThe shortest distance between you and a much better outcome for your business customers may be effective translation and communication.\u00a0 Avoiding jargon-filled explanations and leveraging the power of agile methods are good starts.\u00a0 What changes could you make today that might lead to some miracles for your customers?