Terminology danger zone

The Terminology Danger zone is where software is called something that people actually must do.

The Terminology Danger zone is where software is called something that people actually do, or terms open for misinterpretation.

When I say ‘collaboration’ do you think of working as a team, conspiring with the enemy in WW II, or software applications designed for sharing information and ideas? These are perfectly legitimate definitions. We use the same words to mean so many different things… and that’s the terminology danger zone!

Much of the time, we leave the precise meaning we intend implicit. In some cases vague terminology is intentional to give ourselves wiggle room or to allow the listener or reader to elicit what they will. Yet more often we are trying to relay some precise information and get specific reactions, results or actions.

The software industry is founded on using words to describe applications based on the processes they support. This is useful in some ways, but misleading in others. Just because you have accounting software does not mean you can’t cook the books. Just because you have planning software does not mean you have good, executable plans. And despite all of our automation, most companies have lots of manual processes and paper.

So what is my point? Simply that to communicate effectively, we need to be explicit. And that software and technology do not solve problems in and of themselves. To be truly effective, people should have:

  • mindsets and the patience to clarify what the situation and issue they want to change truly are
  • organizational structures and resources to work together effectively
  • processes that are clear and explicitly defined yet flexible and responsive to do their work
  • a company culture that values the people and not just the financial results
  • shared vision and purpose
  • enough “white space” time to create, innovate, rejuvenate and execute on the action items from each meeting
  • appropriate technology support to do all of that efficiently

Don’t look to software to solve your cultural and organizational issues. Specifying software applications may help with defining the processes, and if allowed it might even create some “white space.” Just don’t confuse putting in software like product lifecycle management with doing a good job managing products from concept to retirement – or collaboration software for creating an environment where collaboration is effective.

And please don’t confuse smart manufacturing, smart machines or smart production for having a really effective manufacturing operation. They can all contribute, but there are so many other elements you must put in place to accomplish that… They just sound the same as those technologies.

As companies go global, the terminology danger zone just grows. How people in various cultures interpret the same word or concept can be wildly and unexpectedly different.

This is the terminology danger zone! Wear your hard hat if you have not been explicit about what support technology can provide to your people, processes and initiatives. Falling trust, wrong expectations, heavy misunderstandings, and flying accusations can all damage not only your performance, but your ability to improve it over time.

 

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