I am trying to decide which business term makes me more nauseous. I recently just read a LinkedIn post that makes it a tossup between ‘alignment’ and ‘cross-functional. ‘
Alignment makes sense to me when speaking about the steering on my car, the rails on my dresser drawers or the right line when skiing downhill to avoid certain death. In business, my best guess is, something like when we are aligned, you will truly believe my idea was actually yours. Doesn’t it feel better now that we are aligned? This is not so untrue, because alignment can mean that we need to be following a process instead of making stuff up as we go along. Some decent descriptions include:making tough choices, innovate to keep customers, reduce costs, reward employees who show they can be flexible, or get back to focusing on products that excite us and our customers. I do believe my high school student would understand that.
Cross-functional I think is actually more of a runner’s up term of the year that I would enjoy eradicating from the face of the earth. It is the idea that people from different parts of the organization should work together. Okay, I will admit that my SAT scores were less than great and so I didn’t make it into Harvard, which my sixteen year old son doesn’t actually like as a school choice because he hears Harvard students aren’t really working for a living anymore. But I tangent to the the word on the teenage street. Okay, back to cross-functional. I am envisaging gears that show how sales drives the need for the shipping department to ship product. Or better, a whole change of events could be incorporated into the necessary visual. So that we engage the audience instead of just pretending they are taking notes. Or….more to my liking — “Duh?” The deeper concept may be valuable for a process engineer, a project manager implementing change, or a janitor in a factory that is about to be moved to Mexico. The janitor may say, “Boss, I think I am being excluded and underrepresented in the cross-functional nature of this business decision. Umm. I ain’t moving to Mexico….just to be clear.”
Specialized language does have a purpose despite my facetiousness. It evolves as specialty knowledge necessitates communication. Specialty language supports communication in terms of underlying specificity and greater efficiency.
Specificity is communicated through terms that have commonly understood definitions implications within that specialty. Efficiency is the short hand of communication so a novella is not necessary to get the point across. B2B – Business to business for those in the know. Specialty terms may increase in usage and enter common language as the need arises. But who uses G2G on a regular basis at this point. Medical terminology may include a conversation about which angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB) to use since the patient is allergic to ACE inhibitors. Okay, well I hope my doctor understands this, but I may not need to.
’Twas brillig, and the slithy tovesLewis Carroll
In honor of the title a nod to Lewis Carroll the first line of Jabberwocky and what it means to me: ’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves / Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: . And it means absolutely nothing to me. But to Humpty Dumpty, as he explains to Alice, brillig means four o’clock in the afternoon — the time when you begin broiling things for dinner. So, there you have it.
Definition is key. My personal stress ad nauseam emerges from language pushers (my new specialty term). Specialty language is meant to be an improvement for communication not an exclusionary language. It’s usage for those in the need to know for good not to intimidate others not in the know. It should be used when necessary to enlighten, not necessarily sell consulting services to the those not in need of consulting services. To be clearer not foggier. To be effective not flamboyant. Yes, it takes exposure, education and feedback to gain access to the inside track.
Now on the other hand, slang is meant to be exclusionary. Which can become pretty dope as long as you don’t leave receipts of your outlandish behavior. So be noice, don’t be a troll and for the sake of it, avoid the girlfriend tax when dining out and tell her to order her own dish. In other words, use slang in your personal life.
Can we please speak English in Business?
Yes and no. We need to avoid pitfalls but embrace new ideas. The pitfalls reside in misused jargon misunderstood definitions and flagrant miscalculation of the audience and their needs. The new ideas require ways to define and communicate. It should be important to the audience, explanatory, thought provoking and a possible call to their action with what they know not a redundancy and certainly not too confusing.
Taxonomy is described sometimes as a science and sometimes as an art, but really it’s a battleground.Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything
Finally, taxonomy aids in the organization of information. It is common in natural sciences for classification. If you remember domain, kingdom, genus etc… you must remember your science class. This can be applied to information as data taxonomies. By creating a framework of information analysis becomes easier and more accurate. Whether it’s a marketing, customer service or employee performance, clear classified information improves analysis and makes the information more manageable, meaningful and actionable. The end result is improved communication and ultimately better business performance