Everyone loves petrichor

Jargon is rarely as beautiful as that.

But it’s useful which is why we keep on inventing more of it.
Here’s some more jargon that people use at work.

Poke yoke

Hate me yet? Ok, you don’t, but you would if similar jargon was bandied around at work by some cultish band of insiders. You’re not attracted anyway.

Unless you are Japanese.

In that case it’s a list of normal words. Those words are all Japanese words used in lean thinking to mean particular things. They’ve been lifted and used widely by non-Japanese speakers as short hand for longer more complex ideas.

Like all words they are shorthand for something else more complex, so they’re useful. Instead of saying “automated internal combustion powered transportation vehicle” I can say “car”and we cut down on the time spent staring dumbly at each other leaving more time for cake.

Some cake, yesterday

Or I can say “gemba” and it means something that doesn’t really exist in English. It literally means “the place”, which is a bit too Zen for most people, but in lean circles it means the actual place where the value is created, a factory production line rather than in a support department like HR. A nice useful shorthand.

Unless you aren’t Japanese or lean.

In that case it is off-putting, you don’t understand it and makes you feel stupid and not part of the in-crowd. Or just plain put off. Increasingly I cringe if I say “systems thinking” as it sounds so stupid. And incomprehensible. What systems, IT systems? Who thinks? Thinking? Sounds a bit complicated. But a word instead of a complex abstract concept is really useful, as it shortens the time between cake and makes writing stuff a lot easier.

Failure demand, there’s more words. I like failure demand. Demand caused by a failure. But plenty don’t. Who demands failure? Failure sounds so awful from a command and control perspective, and the first time you encounter the phrase failure demand might be when you too are still in command and control mode. Just when you don’t need being put off by unfamiliar words.

What are these four words?

What’s this all about? Without the jargon of words you might have to try and explain what these abstract concepts are in a halting and stumbling mime.

If you have ever seen Doctor Who…HAHAHAHAH! God, sorry, this is the internet, and I have seen who reads this blog, Agile IT gymnasts and the like. Of course you have seen Doctor Who.

If you have ever seen Doctor Who…then you might remember these 4 words. A memory instead of the word itself. I am not going to tell you though. It’s jargon.

the answers

Easier isn’t it? When there are 26 letters that can be arranged in a particular order to tell someone something, it’s much easier and quicker than any other way.

But wait! “Stamp out nouns!” Says one man who goes by the noun of Anatol Holt. Thought they got in the way, made people think they were real, like these splendid words say.

“Nouns, representing so-called persons, places, things, and ideas, are a marvelous convenience to allow us to get up and to move our mouth parts at each other and communicate, but they don’t represent anything except for a very provisional and temporary kind of reality.”

He said that about normal nouns, like dog, cat, cake etc.
What would he make of “Kaikaku” or “Sensei“? “Failure demand” or “the thinking“?


I once tried to demonstrate how a particular measure in a control chart showed enormous variation over time, variation that was hidden by the way we usually showed measures, by comparing them against a target in a scorecard and using a traffic light symbol to show if it was ON or OFF target. I thought it would be useful to show how this variation was hidden by our usual method and was hoping for some thinking about this.

Turns out, when the word “control chart” was said aloud by foolish me, he thought it meant how to control the process by using the “control limit” lines to set targets. Once that thought was in head, it wouldn’t come out. Not his fault, or mine, the fault of the word “control“. Our mouth parts were moving in the same way but our brain bits weren’t.

People can only hear what THEY hear not what YOU say. Say “failure demand” or “control chart” and what that means to them will be what they hear. If you say you’ve found some failure demand to a Systemsy Best Bud, they will be delighted, “hurray!” they will say, as they know that no problem is problem.

Say the same thing to someone else and they may shiver “Who has failed? Not me, I’m achieving all my objectives, my annual appraisal says so”.

Words are just bridges to somebody else’s brain, make sure you know where your bridge is taking you before you build it.

This entry was posted in communication, psychology, systems thinking, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Everyone loves petrichor

  1. Anyone who believes that value is created in a gemba or anywhere other than the eye of the beholder (consumer, user, whoever) is badly mistaken. Thanks for your provocative and entertaining articles. Why no Twitter? Best wishes from Bristol. Jack


  2. Pingback: John Seddon is not systems thinking | thinkpurpose

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