People in businesses around the world use common terminology for practices, concepts, and procedures that can be found in most organizations. You can find these terms in business dictionaries and at business glossary Web sites, and most serve us well. Some, though, help to defeat us. They carry baggage, and some evoke problematic images. Here are a few examples.
- Cross-functional teams
- The purpose of the "cross-functional team" is to blur boundaries, to have a team that functions beyond provincial departmental interests. Why, then, do we use a term that evokes the differences between the team's members, and emphasizes that the members are drawn from the different functional units of the organization?
- Work/Life balance
- Drawing a distinction between Work and Life adds to the tension between work and the rest of life, and then exaggerates it by using the balance metaphor. Work is part of Life. Whether I'm at work or not, I'm still alive. The problems with this term arise not from an imbalance between parts of Life, but from a failure of the employee, the organization, or both, to acknowledge all the needs of the whole Person.
- Task force
- A task force is a temporary team formed to investigate, to create, or to find a new perspective. Usually its work changes the way the organization sees or accomplishes its mission. It's a wonder how we can use the term "Force," and then complain later about the "resistance" we meet when we try to implement the results of the Task Force. Force, by its nature, spawns counterforce. In calling a group a "task force" we take the first step in creating the counterforce.
- Golden handcuffs
- When we In calling a group
a "task force" we take
the first step in creating
the counterforcewant key people to remain in place through difficult transitions, we need not only their physical presence, but their hearts and their passion. A promise of cash does persuade people to stay, but because it's an extrinsic motivator, it tends to dampen passion. Calling the mechanism "handcuffs" makes explicit our intention of depriving people of their freedom.
- In business, compensation refers to the array of benefits and payments employees receive. But almost everywhere else in life, to compensate is to provide offsets for harm done. Compensation evokes the idea that to work is to sacrifice, creating an obligation for employers to provide offsets. The reality for most knowledge workers today is very different. Most of us have made great sacrifices all through our lives for the opportunity to hold the jobs we hold. We usually don't view work as a sacrifice that employers must compensate for — until we hear the term "compensation."
This little essay probably won't bring an end to these terms. Only you can do that. If you want to, you can stop using them, and you can suggest that the people around you find other words, too. We'll all be a little bit better off. Top Next Issue
Are your projects always (or almost always) late and over budget? Are your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around. Read 52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented Organizations, filled with tips and techniques for organizational leaders. Order Now!
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenfPisQwhtshXzxJVvner@ChacUYLEiQVcXCoqJzufoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- The Solving Lamp Is Lit
- We waste a lot of time finding solutions before we understand the problem. And sometimes, we start solving
before everyone is even aware of the problem. Here's how to prevent premature solution.
- Completism is the desire to create or acquire a complete set of something. In our personal lives, it
drives collectors to pay high prices for rare items that "complete the set." In business it
drives us to squander our resources in surprising ways.
- The Ups and Downs of American Handshakes: I
- In much of the world, the handshake is a customary business greeting. It seems so simple, but its nuances
can send signals we don't intend. Here are some of the details of handshakes in the USA.
- Logically Illogical
- Discussions in meetings and in written media can get long and complex. When a chain of reasoning gets
long enough, we sometimes make fundamental errors of logic, especially when we're under time pressure.
Here are just a few.
- A Review of Performance Reviews: Blindsiding
- Ever learn of a complaint about you for the first time at your performance review? If so, you were blindsided.
Reviews can be painful. Here are some guidelines for making them a little fairer.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming July 8: Multi-Expert Consensus
- Some working groups consist of experts from many fields. When they must reach a decision by consensus, members have several options. Defining those options in advance can help the group reach a decision with all its relationships intact. Available here and by RSS on July 8.
- And on July 15: Disjoint Concept Vocabularies
- In disputes or in problem solving sessions, when we can't seem to come to agreement, we often attribute the difficulty to miscommunication, histories of disagreements, hidden agendas, or "personality clashes." Sometimes the cause is much simpler. Sometimes the concept vocabularies of the parties don't overlap. Available here and by RSS on July 15.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenfPisQwhtshXzxJVvner@ChacUYLEiQVcXCoqJzufoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, )
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, )
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, )
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, )
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, )
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, )
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
- Bullet Points: Mastery or Madness?
Decision-makers in modern organizations commonly demand briefings in the form of bullet points or a series of series of bullet points. But this form of presentation has limited value for complex decisions. We need something more. We actually need to think. Briefers who combine the bullet-point format with a variety of persuasion techniques can mislead decision-makers, guiding them into making poor decisions. Read more about this program.