A Name for Everything

There are many ways in which I’m just super dense.  For example, on some level, I just don’t get why there has to be a name for everything before it’s a thing.  A name, a process, and an SOP and suddenly something is legit whereas if you just called it common sense and moved on, you could save a lot of paper.

Yes, I know.  Common sense isn’t so common.

Project Management and the PMBOK.

How on earth did anyone get anything done before there was the PMP certification and the PMBOK to remind you that teams need to talk to each other and deadlines are important?  Someone somewhere is making a boatload of money off of having given some pretty basic principles a name and matching them up with a certification.

Lean Six Sigma

I hate to be the first to say this out loud, but people don’t conform to the level of predictability and perfection as a robot on the floor of a Toyota plant.  I’ve seen a black-belt Lean Six Sigma pro look at a process that was all about the people and find herself unable to help.  Perfection is a reasonable goal when you’re talking about a robot screwing a bolt into a sheet of metal.  People, however, refuse to present the same set of circumstances every day and require flexibility, a nuanced understanding, and multiple avenues to achieving the same end.


Now this is one management thing that I can get behind.  Even if I am saddened that a group of smart people had to sit down in a room and come up with a manifesto in order for these values to be recognized as a legitimate approach.

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

Seriously?  We now need an ether-sanctioned “thing” to tell us that plans rarely survive first contact with reality and that accomplishing something means reacting constructively to change?  No one knew that before?  Oh, right.  Because they were so wedded to the PMBOK and the way things are “supposed” to be that they hadn’t noticed how infrequently reality corresponds to what we think it is “supposed” to be.

Somehow it seems like the working world is so wrapped up in its SOPs and Manuals and Processes and Guidelines and Handbooks that it doesn’t even matter what’s produced anymore.  And we kind of like it that way.  Everyone can walk around the office bumping into walls justifying their daily bread with sub-paragraph 3.8.18 of this regulation or that manual and the fact that nothing ever gets done is nobody’s damn fault because for all that the PMBOK made sure that the deadlines were met, the thing that we most needed done still isn’t up and running.

But hey, we all get to take home a paycheck, right?

And most of us live in terror that we’ll get found out for making money for doing nothing tangible.

Sometimes I wonder how long this particular expression of capitalism is going to hold up.  It seems like a glass house just waiting for a good stoning.

Can I be allowed some translations?  Please feel free to add your own…

  • Business Process Improvement – we’re doing the right thing in the wrong way, so let’s get it un-f*cked so we can go home feeling like we accomplished something.
  • Reorganization – we’re alphabetizing the spices while the roof is on fire.  Hey, it needed to be done.
  • Culture – the behaviors and values the boss wishes everyone else was but doesn’t demonstrate him/herself.
  • Survey – let’s spend money asking questions we don’t want the answer to in such a way as we don’t get to the truth so we can measure it again next year and hope that the results are slightly different because we talked about the data in a couple of meetings.
  • Big Data – the world is complicated – too complicated for us to figure out in the limited time that we’ve got.  Let’s mush up all the information we can possibly get our hands on and see if anything interesting comes out of the aggregation.  With this much computing power, we might as well use it for something.
  • Outside the Box – make us feel brave by suggesting something that is just a little bit new.  By outside the box, we really mean like the label stuck on the outside of the box.
  • We need Smart people – we need people who are smart enough.  Smart enough to do what we say with out asking too many questions, not smart enough to see through our BS.
  • Exit Strategy – when this goes arse over teakettle, how are we going to keep from going down with the project.
  • Risk Mitigation – we’re going to move so slowly in the right direction that there’s no chance in hell that anything is ever going to happen.
  • Risk tolerance – None.  Don’t eff up the bottom line.
  • Proactive – Don’t make me tell you what to do, but God help you if you do the wrong thing.  And by wrong thing I mean something I hadn’t already thought of doing myself.
  • Paradigm Shift – Apparently there was a metaphorical earthquake with a tornado thrown in for good measure all on the same day.  It happened a good six months ago, but we’re just now figuring out that the roof is gone and the walls are cracked.
  • Synergy – Talk to people outside your department.  But not too much.  Or too often.  Maybe at the company picnic.  Assuming we have one this year.
  • Efficiencies – Maybe it is time to stop having six different people do the same thing when two people working together might be able to get it done once and then move on.
  • Bandwidth – My head is full, damn it, and I simply cannot absorb another crisis today.  Come back when I’m dead.
  • Best Practices – Someone gave this process a name, so we’re going to appropriate it, make it official, and skip the part where we think an approach through ourselves.
  • Adding Value – This effort was worth the money you put into it.  Well, it really wasn’t.  If you’d cleared up the persistent question of who’s in charge and what approval you needed to fix the issue, then you could have done it yourself.  But you didn’t and now you need to feel good about spending the money and we need to feel good about taking it.
A Name for Everything

5 thoughts on “A Name for Everything

  1. girlforgetful says:

    I worked for a gentleman that was quite fond of pet phrases to describe the culture of his little company. It was cute at first, until it was hard not to cringe when he said it.


  2. Somehow, it seems like those are the ones who are the hardest to get through to – if you bother to try. They’re so enamored of their buzzwords, they don’t realize that what you do is far more influential than what you say. Or they’ve read the alien manual on human leadership and think going through the motions is enough. It isn’t. You have to genuinely give a sh!t about something for your people to invest equally. There are no brownie points awarded for the pastiche, assuming you were after the real thing.


  3. Entrope,

    YIKES! probably the best word you could ever have in a manual.

    There is so much I could say about this post, but one word sums you up rather nicely…..LOVE.



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