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  • Writer's pictureBill Holmes

What the Heck Are They Talking About??

“Done is better than perfect.” Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Now those I understand!

It is amazing how buzz words and catch phrases can start popping up until you hear them in every Governance Board and Executive Steering Committee. You need to pay attention to them because they can be strategically used against you!

Here are some examples and my take on them:

We are going to “shake the globe” on requirements. They were having problems meeting the deployment date and wanted to walk away from the agreed upon release plan to do something different.

We need additional time to “harvest signatures”. In this instance, they missed a deadline and wanted to begin adding time into the project plan to account for this in the future. Outside of an official change request. Well done!

They were using “word salad”. I originally thought that this meant that they weren’t communicating well, and the speaker was being kind. Imagine my surprise when I looked it up on Wikipedia! “Word salad is a "confused or unintelligible mixture of seemingly random words and phrases", most often used to describe a symptom of a neurological or mental disorder. The words may or may not be grammatically correct, but are semantically confused to the point that the listener cannot extract any meaning from them.” I have a new respect for my friend!

They are following the same “tragic pathology”. Same friend as above! In fairness, it was the meeting after a terrible meeting. Here he meant that we keep repeating the same mistakes, always resulting in the same awful outcomes.

We need to be “focused up and out, not in and down”. This one is just starting to make the rounds, and it means that we need to think strategically and not tactically. Although the day to day tactical work is overwhelming. Try harder kids!

We have adopted “agile project management techniques”. This came attached to a proposal to remove an entire governance process used to ensure that scope was delivered. It seems that organizations like to use Agile terms but do Waterfall. Be wary of this as it is a license to selectively apply the techniques in a way that is advantageous to one party at the expense of another.

We must engage in “cultural negotiation” with that organization. Two groups were engaged in an undeclared war with each other and it was creating problems. This comment came from a young, well educated person who still believed in sunshine and wagging puppy tails! This person was explaining their perspective to a battle hardened corporate warrior who also happened to detest the manager being referred to. There were no "cultural negotiations" and this person was chastised for even mentioning it. But it might work for you!

“Ping me” when you are ready to talk! Don’t say this. Ever.

We need to take a “holistic” approach. The implication here is that the people who have been working on the problem for weeks are only capable of being tactical and haven’t thought of the “bigger picture”. Two for one! Don’t use these anymore either.

Big Data, Machine Learning, Data Science. Some of the most overused, least understood terms currently out there. If someone uses any of these in a sentence, find out what their background is and then make an informed decision whether to listen to them or not. Unless they are higher than you in the organization. Then get right on that!

As you can clearly see, I took a multidisciplinary approach to develop a strategically focused holistic approach to the front burner issue of business buzz words!


I wrote an earlier blog on this, but I love the story!

I first heard the term “are you a chicken or a pig” from my father. I was in the Boy Scouts and he was trying to get everyone to contribute to setting up the camping area. Fast forward 30 years to a Project Meeting (before I had any training at all and was trying to figure it out) where there were a bunch of people who wanted to provide input but not do any work. Somehow that question popped into my mind and I asked one of the contributors “are you a chicken or a pig?” I proceeded to tell a variation of the story below to illustrate the point. And I have been using it ever since to great effect! Imagine my surprise when I decided to look this up on Wikipedia and found out it was an actual fable. In any case, here it is.

A Pig and a Chicken are walking down the road.

The Chicken says: "Hey Pig, I was thinking we should open a restaurant!"

Pig replies: "Hmmm, maybe, what would we call it?"

The Chicken responds: "How about 'ham-n-eggs'?"

The Pig thinks for a moment and says: "No thanks. I'd be committed, but you'd only be involved."


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