Game of One Breath

A Game of One Breath

Creating a shared terminology in teams

Meaningful communication start’s with agreed upon concepts and using them consistently throughout the project. This game 'Of One Breath' is straightforward but challenging at the same time. The players get two words that appear to be synonyms but de facto have a different meaning. Your task is to explain the conceptual difference between the two, all in one breath.



The rules are as follows:


  • When you are out of breath, your time is up
  • Explanation by example is not allowed
  • Everyone in the team takes turns
  • You can chicken out, by penalty of baking a cake for the next meeting
  • You can re-use some elements from others, but you must add original content of your own.


Speaking aloud is imperative, sometimes things can make perfect sense inside your head, but saying it comes out like utter nonsense. You can play the game for yourself, while having a long walk or a bike trip. When you play the game with the team, take turns in explaining. Adapt, rework and combine the descriptions, until you reach an agreement. Keep it short and sweet. The game can sometimes result in gem’s like:


‘Validation is about doing the right thing; verification is about doing things right.’



Ready to give it a try? Explain in one breath, the fundamental difference between:


  • Mission and vision
  • Goal and objective
  • Cost and expense
  • Scope and result
  • Requirements and specification
  • Functionality and feature
  • Risk and uncertainty
  • Accountability and responsibility
  • Dependency and constraint
  • Assumption and presumption
  • Precondition and prerequisite
  • Use case and user story
  • Process and activity
  • Precision and accuracy
  • Resilience and robustness
  • Quality control and quality assurance
  • Approving and authorizing
  • Delegation and mandating
  • Project plan and project management plan


Playing the game can be both a surprising and a scary activity. You may suddenly realize that the people you have been working with for months, attach a totally different meaning to words than you do. Which then makes you wonder about the value of all the intense meetings and discussions you had together (!)


The Dilbert Challenge