I was working with a client last week who were trying to fit some new technical practices into their daily routine. The way they were trying to ‘account’ for this in their iteration planning was by introducing a 10% ‘tax’ on their velocity. In other words, they were reducing the number of story points that they would accept into the iteration to make up for the time spent getting better at TDD (for example).

Happy Tax!

Quite apart from whether you think this is a good way to go about it (I don’t) there’s a real issue of terminology. Maybe taxes are levied for the good of the nation, but very few people feel ecstatic about paying them. Taxes ensure you keep getting what you already take for granted.

This team was trying to improve their work, so that they could deliver better value. By calling this a tax I think they were setting the wrong tone for discussions with their customers and management. Far better to describe it, accurately, as an investment. An investment in the staff, the organisation and the product. An investment that would produce returns.

Phil Karlton famously said: “There are only two hard things in Computer Science: cache invalidation and naming things.” It turns out it’s not just in computer science that it’s hard. Who knew?

Do you have any great examples of poorly chosen names, that give people the wrong impression of something?