EDUCE Overview Copyright 2009 Nikolas S. Boyd.
All rights reserved.

Descriptive Adjective


Discover and name conditions, which may be the states of an object in its lifecycle, usage constraints, or consequential results.


Descriptive adjectives indicate states (of being). Business policy statements intend to foster quality operations and relationships, but are best formulated when they focus on specific ends (outcomes). Objects often transition through specific states in their respective lifecycles. Object behaviors are often contingent on or triggered by conditions. Proper service usage is also usually contingent on some condition or state. Completion results are often described as conditions or states. All of these cases warrant consideration of descriptive adjectives.


Use a descriptive adjective when

Considerations (Policy Statements)

Business policy statements (esp. vision and mission statements) focus on qualities that businesses value and intend to foster in their operations and relationships. But, considerations and discussions regarding quality are often abstract. Many business mission and vision statements are typical in this regard. Some common mission themes include loyalty, honesty, integrity, diversity, innovation, leadership, growth, etc. However, the targets of these quality themes are often unclear or unspecified, which in turn obscures the intended ends. So, while quality abstractions may be useful in framing and prioritization discussions, they diminish the impact and clarity of mission and vision statements. Focusing on ends makes mission and vision statements much more powerful.

Quality abstractions expressed as nouns often hide more concrete concepts. Quality concerns can be expressed as abstractions using nouns, or they can be instantiated and made concrete using descriptive adjectives. This subtle linguistic shift can have a dramatic impact on the consideration and formulation of quality objectives. However, the value of shifting quality expressions in this way may not be obvious or may be easily overlooked.

Hence, ends are best expressed as effects that make qualitative (valuable) changes in the world. So, ends are best expressed using adjectives that describe the intended effects, i.e., the state (of being) to be achieved. Descriptive adjectives indicate such states of being. So, descriptive adjectives are generally more useful for formulating ends statements, e.g., compare: customer loyalty vs. loyal customers. Making this simple linguistic shift can have a profound impact on how we conceive of and discuss business quality concerns. This shift can be especially helpful in the discussion and formulation of ends statements and business objectives.

Considerations (Object Lifecycles)

Dispositions derived from verbs play an important role in object-oriented software designs. Dispositions indicate the states through which an object passes during its lifecycle, and the related verbs (and corresponding nouns) often indicate how an object transitions from state to state - i.e., the events that trigger state changes. For example, the states in the lifecycle of a piece of electronic mail could include the following: created, drafted, addressed, queued, sent, received, stored, trashed, destroyed.

However, merely enumerating object states does not convey any information about the transitions between states. The events that trigger transitions between states must also be enumerated in order to complete a lifecycle model. For this reason, we typically model lifecycle states graphically. Consider the lifecycle for hazardous chemical storage drums depicted below.

dispositions: delivered, tagged, allocated, stored, collected, returned, loaded
transitions: arrival, delivery, identification, rejection, allocation, storage, collection, loading, departure

Chemical Storage Drum Lifecycle

The analysis of dispositions and transitions can be important even in the case of a relatively stable relationship. For example, with respect to the employment relationship, there are several states preceding and following employment that may be relevant to a full lifecycle model. Consider the following states: applied, interviewed, hired, employed, (retired, discontinued, fired).

The state pattern is one of the more popular design patterns used in object-oriented software designs. The naming of states within a finite state machine (FSM) then becomes one of the more frequent challenges with such designs. Another design pattern for naming states in FSMs has been proposed to address the challenge of naming states in such designs.

Considerations (Conditions)

A noun phrase with a descriptive adjective will often identify a condition, a constraint, or a result formulated as a comparative relation between values. Consider the examples from a representative intelligence card with quantitative analysis of the quality vulnerability for a hazmat storage facility depicted below.


The consideration of descriptive adjectives complements the consideration of condition descriptions. Both are the (generally) reversible complements of each other.

Opportunities for exploring and revealing cardinality include the use of a limiting adjective to explicitly indicate the cardinality of a relationship.

Storage Depot Vulnerability

vulnerability proximity, drum counts
vulnerable depot = vulnerable storage building pair
vulnerable buildings = neighboring pair of full storage buildings
neighboring buildings = building walls within 5 meters proximity
full storage building = (drum storage capacity = 0) per hazard type
building drum storage capacity = (drum storage limit - drum count) per hazard type
building drum storage limit from: building drum storage license
building drum count from: building drum inventory