Glossary of Terms

These definitions are not precise. They are meant to aid in your understanding of certain terms that we use in our book and to know how we, the authors, have interpreted these words based on our own knowledge and experience. You may have other ideas as to what these terms mean. Please feel free to share your thoughts with us so that we all can learn.

These terms and their definitions are not all inclusive. You may find other terms that we have used that you would like for us to consider including in this list. If that is the case, please reach out to us. 


Adaptive Culture is the generic corporate culture characterized by high empowerment and high flexibility that thrives in the Co-Configuration landscape.

Advantage Work is the collection of activities that creates a sustainable competitive advantage and distinctiveness.

Advantage capabilities directly contribute to the customer value proposition and have a high impact on company financials. Advantage work processes are always performed and managed in-house to protect the intellectual property.

Alignment is modifying the various organizational components so that they and the resulting culture support and reinforce each other in achieving the organization’s strategic directions and goals.


Business Landscape is the environment surrounding an organization: industry, technology, markets, social conditions, and governments. See Landscape.

Business Objectives are the intermediate to longer-term strategic goals, which provide the basis for shaping future design decisions, rewards, and alignment and coordination activities. They are milestones on the way to achieving the strategy.


Change Readiness is a measure of how ready an organization is to change. It looks at Change History, Effort Priority, Organizational Factors, as well as Stakeholder Factors.

Charter is a written or verbal agreement bounding the project or product and how it is being approached and managed. It typically describes the opportunity, approach, and effort shape based on what is known.

Circles or Squads are self-managed, cross-functional and interlocking teams often found in Adaptive Cultures. Each circle has clear ownership tied to customers’ needs and permeable boundaries wit formal and ad hoc networks.

Co-Configuration Landscape is the business landscape where the external environment is both ‘complex’ and ‘unstable.’ It involves building and sustaining integrated systems that can sense/scan, respond, and adapt to the individual experience of the customer.

Complexity is the state or quality of being intricate or complicated, which does not lend itself to ordinary problem solving and which requires the use of a Complexity Theory perspective to understand or manage as opposed to linear problem solving.

Organization Components are the basic building blocks of an organization. These are Leadership (purpose and strategy), Work, People, Structure, and Systems. Together these define the capabilities of the organization.

Coordination or Linking Mechanisms are enabling systems put in place to make the structure design work across boundaries or to coordinate and share information across groups. They enable guidance and direction across the organization, and they can help to address shortfalls in your structure.

Core Assets These are the important non-human assets for a business’s strategy. They can be unique strategic locations or facilities, access to raw materials, copy rights, inventions or advantageous contracts that help the business differentiate in the marketplace.

Core Business/Purpose is the reason the organization exists, its values, the existing critical capabilities or competencies, and its key assets.

Core Competencies are the specific skills and capabilities needed for the organization to get its work done that others cannot match and which can provide a competitive advantage. They can be experts, their knowledge, their networks, hardware, or software technologies.

Core Values are the few key behaviors and ethical values, overt or covert, that explain how decisions are made, what people are rewarded for and that demonstrate what an organization holds most highly.

Core Work consists of the technologies and work activities that provide the strategic competitive advantage.

Corporate Culture is the characteristic human patterns the in everyday actions and behaviors and the interactions of groups combine to produce the distinctive ‘look and feel’ of an organization. Culture refers to how the other components interact and work together.

Customer Segmentation Strategy, or market segmentation, is focused on specific markets or even individual customers and providing what each unique customer or market segment demands. It is sometimes called customer intimacy as it requires a deep understanding of customers’ needs in order to satisfy them in ways that competitors cannot.  


Decision Criteria are the few (often 3-5) relevant criteria that are to be used for groups in making critical quantitative or qualitative decisions among competing options.

Deliverables are the ten specific concrete work activities that actually deliver the alignment or improvements of the Syngineering framework approaches.

Design Thinking is a process for creative problem solving. Design thinking has a human-centered core. It encourages organizations to focus on the people they're creating for, which leads to better products, services, and internal processes.

Diagnosis provides as assessment of the current state or current capabilities and what may need to change to reach a desired future state.

Directive Culture is the generic corporate culture characterized by low empowerment and low flexibility that thrives in the Mass Production landscape.


Emergent Strategy emphasizes sensing and responding to emerging information and trends.

Enabling Work is work that must be done to stay in business, but it is work that customers don't really value and may not be significantly different from those used by competitors.

Environmental Scan identifies external threats and opportunities and your internal strengths and weaknesses and is often shown on a table referred to as a SWOT Analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.


Flexible Culture is the generic corporate culture characterized by low empowerment and high flexibility that thrives in the Mass Customization landscape.


Integrated Plan - all project plans knit together into an integrated whole.


Knowledge Work Landscape is the generic complex and stable business environment. Its numerous and dissimilar elements stay the same or change slowly over time.


Landscape or Business Landscape the environments around an organization: industry, technology, markets, social conditions, and governments.


Macro Process Map helps to understand the flow of work. It shows how information and work will move across the entire organization or large component, including which functions or roles will be involved at which times, and what will be produced.

Mass Customization Landscape is the generic simple and volatile business environment with just a few similar elements that change rapidly over time.

Mass Production Landscape is the generic simple and stable business environment with just a few similar elements that remain the same or change slowly over time. It is described more fully at Mass Production.

Mindsets are the collection of beliefs and thoughts that predetermine people’s interpretations and responses to events, circumstances and situations. These beliefs are created and maintained by the experiences and results we have, see and observe in everyday life.


Network - agile organizations extend the characteristics of teams to ad hoc groups and connect them together into networks. These can be recognized as part of the formal or informal reporting structure.


Operating Model outlines the high-level organization framework and its components.

Operational Excellence Strategy seeks to produce standard products, often commodities, at lower cost than the competition. The cost margin translates directly into profits. Also called Cost Leadership.

Cost Leadership or Operational Excellence involves price differentials over competitors gained from operating efficiencies. Also known as Operational Excellence Strategy.

Opportunity Map breaks down the ‘Why’ or Opportunity from the charter into focus areas to understand the gaps between the current state and desired future and how the team can bridge these gaps.

Organization Design involves analyzing and correcting misalignments in the organization’s components, including diagnosing the misalignments, designing improvements, and then testing them and then repeating the process as needed until the level of alignment is satisfactory according to the sponsors.

Orientation Map a diagram of gaps and opportunity areas that breaks down the ‘why’ or opportunity from the charter into focus areas to understand the gaps between the current state and desired future and identify potential opportunities for the project to bridge the gap.


Participative Culture is the generic corporate culture characterized by high empowerment and low flexibility that thrives in the Knowledge Work landscape.

Prototype They design workshops, focus groups, online communication and feedback vehicles, and pilots or prototypes to involve enough employees to ensure all relevant information is available and considered.


RACI Chart is a chart designed to clarify who does what with whom and who needs to know about it. RACI stands for Responsibility-Accountability-Consult-Inform.

Risk Mitigation is any potential eventuality that could derail the effort and needs to have some sort of mitigation plan.

Roadmap maps out the work with an eye on the time available and other constraints such as resources and budget.

Roles and Accountabilities specifies all needed technologies and processes and defines the critical tasks, activities, skills, job roles, and authorities needed to deliver them.


Sacred Cows are things that are completely out of bounds or non-negotiables.

Span of Control is the number of subordinates that a manager or supervisor can directly control.

Sponsorship is the actions and behaviors to legitimize, champion, and enable the change effort. Sponsors have the authority to start or stop the change effort.

Stakeholder Analysis is an analysis of how you plan to engage with your key stakeholders.

Stakeholder Map is a map of your key stakeholders against two different dimensions such as change impact and organizational influence to identify where to focus your efforts and how to influence others to change.

Strategic Characteristics are the critical few characteristics or key specifications that need to be present in the organization to deliver the strategy.

Strategy is how you intend to succeed in your marketplace: the products and services you provide, the way you distribute them, who are your customers, and your value proposition for them.

Structure details the relationships between work groups. It provides the coordination of resources needed to deliver the strategy.

SWOT Analysis: see Environmental Scan


Tension – a presenting problem or issue that needs to be addressed

Transactional Systems are the remuneration and compensation, financial and non-financial benefits, recognition and reward programs, and employee databases


Value Chain includes the high level strategic activities or macro processes which add value for the customer and a competitive advantage for you.

Volatility is how quickly the technology, the products, their features, or markets change. Soft drink manufacturing and sales is relatively stable compared to the volatility of the clothing fashions.   


Workstreams are smaller subgroups assigned specific tasks often identified from the orientation map or the roadmap activity.