a collection of absurd corporate lingo from my erstwhile employer, February 2000    

action item
Something which needs to be either done or at least placed in a list of things in need of doing. For example, an action item in the de-hiring of a resource would be the revocation of the resource's network privileges.

add value
Increase the worth of something. There is no term for "decrease the worth of something."

An essential resource who impedes the rapid completion of a project. Resource bottlenecks are generally those which are overworked and understaffed. In my erstwhile employer's case, bottlenecks occurred most often in graphic design, database approval, and quality assurance.

A problem. Simply using the word "problem" generates excessive negativity and implies there's nothing that can be done, which is often the case.

A boss; someone who orders others around. The term "coach" has fewer negative connotations in our society than the term "boss." "Coach" indicates that the game of business is much like football or baseball, an idea that appeals to many who would have preferred to get rich that way.

compensation package
The expense of having a resource. Unfortunately, resources must rent homes, drive cars and eat food, so to keep them alive (so that they can work), they must be compensated. Sometimes the cost of hiring a specific resource is such that his or her compensation package is out of all proportion to the compensation packages of other resources doing similar work. Thus compensation specifics are regarded as "highly-sensitive" information, and resources are warned that they can be de-hired if they discuss their compensation packages with other resources.

To forcibly terminate a resource's employment, usually using the Change of Relationship Form. The resource is then supervised as he or she packs his stuff and is then escorted to the door.

Features of a product that can be achieved by a specific date. Always spoken of in the future tense.

drill down
For someone to examine something in detail, feature by feature, regardless of level of management. Since this almost never happens in the course of real business (since such action might be interpreted as "taking ownership"), this term is used almost exclusively in the future tense, often as a threat.

embrace and extend
To copy another company's product and then add a few features. That's how it works in theory. In reality, most attempts at embrace and extend result in a buggy, overly-hyped knock-off which, through multiple versions, never quite attains the functionality of the original product being copied.

Concentration on a single task. This rarely lasts more than a few hours even when jealously guarded.

To create a reason for a resource to do something that a manager or a project leader needs done. Often this involves the payment of a bonus, but it can also be the threat of de-hiring.

knowledge transfer
For a resource to teach someone how to do something that only he or she knows how to do. Generally a corporation encourages knowledge transfer as much as possible since it makes it much easier to de-hire a resource whose knowledge has been completely transferred. Paradoxically, the project management system actually discourages knowledge transfer, since, with its strict capitalist model, there is no incentive for one resource to give another resource competitive skills.

A longer word meaning "use." Since much of what a corporation actually has is wasted, managers like to put added emphasis on occasions when they actually use something they already have.

An objective measurement of success or value. In the web world, metrics can be things like "retention," "revenue per unit time," or, in the negative sense of the word, "man-years." While corporations would like to have their employees and the public at large believe that their actions are all entirely based on a careful reading of measurable parameters, in reality many corporate actions are the result of a complex mix of bad science, wishful-thinking and the personal selfishness of managers.

A date related to the level of completion for a project, always spoken of in the future tense. Since milestones are rarely predicted to fall anywhere near where they end up falling, the judgment of whether or not a milestone has been reached is more of an art than a science.

A term meaning "at another, unspecified meeting." Suggesting that an uncomfortable or technically-complex topic be taken "offline" is an excellent way to put off its further discussion indefinitely.

open communication
A policy allowing one person in the firm to speak to another candidly, even emotionally, about some concern, regardless of the position within the firm of either employee. The existance of such a policy is often paraded around with much fanfare in the hopes that employees will feel that they have a voice within the firm. In actuality, of course, the moment an employee starts making real use of open communication, he or she is placed on the short list of rabble-rousers earmarked for de-hiring. The only people truly free to openly communicate are coaches and other bosses, as long as they don't give their bosses any lip.

out of the loop
A phrase meaning "not connected with a decision." It is used to deny responsibility or to complain about not having been consulted.

To take responsibility for something. Someone who "owns" something can never claim that they are "out of the loop."

point of contact
Someone who is the voice for an entire team or subgroup. Effective points of contact often maintain that they are "out of the loop" when challenges occur.

Doing something without being told. This is such a rare assertion of individual initiative that the very word has a mystical aura about it, much like "holy grail."

project management system
A management system that divides a company into small working groups which are left to operate fairly independently and are held independently accountable for their successes and failures. This is how PMS works in theory. In the case of my erstwhile employer, PMS (renamed, for æsthetic reasons, to RAM) was continually corrupted and influenced by such forces as CEO whim, resource manager decree, co-founder bullying (especially in the case of e-commerce projects), shoddy quantification, the special needs of acquired company integration, and the incentivizable demands of overall corporate health (especially with regard to recruitment and knowledge transfer).

A living, breathing human being having a skill set and a compensation package. Resources are managed by a cloistered group which calls itself "Human Resources." Like hardware, resources have fixed lifespans, can become obsolete and can even malfunction.

resource bonus
An entirely fictional payment that resources are supposed to receive monthly for work done outside the project management system.

responsibility assignment
To pass the buck. Not just anyone can participate in an act of responsibility assignment. Generally speaking, a resource can assign responsibility only when he or she receives a larger paycheck than the resource being assigned the responsibility. A manager adept in the art of responsibility assignment can advance his or her position indefinitely beneath the level of CEO.

A project or a resource which/who displays a machiavellian indifference for procedure so long as a key metric is met.

scope creep
The gradual inflation of the goals of a project as its leaders imagine more things for it to do. For a developer, this situation can quickly spiral out of control, especially since scope creep always seems to advance faster and faster as a deadline is approached.

skill set
Things a resource has the ability to do. Often the skill set is defined arbitrarily narrow so as to focus a resource on a limited aspect of company business. The fewer seeing the big picture for themselves, the better.

subject matter expert
The person who knows the most about a particular product. If that person has been de-hired, the subject matter expert is whoever wants to be de-hired next.

sync up
To have a meeting, especially but not necessarily between two people. Evidently borrowed from the Palm Pilot lexicon.

take ownership
Assume responsibility. This is the opposite of the more normal practice of "responsibility assignment."

take ___ to the next level
To improve, extend or advance. This is usually stated as a goal; few actual advancements are ever regarded in retrospect as having quite been "to the next level." (This phrase faded from popularity in the summer of 1999.)

A group of people working together. Taken directly from the obnoxious language of sports.

touch base
Sync up or otherwise have a brief meeting. Another term taken directly from the obnoxious language of sports.

"What's in it for me?" Under the harsh capitalist rules of the Project Management System, supposedly no one had to do anything unless they were personally incentivized. Implicitly or explicitly, this led many resources to ask when approached for a project, "What's in it for me?" The CEO occasionally joked that WIIFM was everybody's favorite radio station.

"Where there's a will, there's a way." This is less of a corporate slogan than it is a start-up company mantra. Basically this means that anything is possible if a resource is willing to focus hard enough on the task at hand. In my experience, though, the end result of WTAWTAW is buggy software, shattered expectations and mass de-hirings.

send me mail | randomly ever after