Common language necessities
I recently added this post to IMA’s corporate blog.
I read a blog today about the need for common language to be used internally within a company to ensure all are on the right/same page. It makes sense right? But it amazes me how many times terms can be used to represent different things. The terms “Business Analyst” “Project Manager” and “Consultant” are widely used, and abused for a variety of things.
I remember when I was an infant in my IT Recruiting career, after I’d cut my teeth on the CICS COBOL DB2 development roles (look it up Gen Y) the first role I had to work on was a “Business Analyst”. Typically I had no idea what one was or did. I asked my colleagues and didn’t get a satisfactory answer, so then I did the next logical thing (no Google and Wikipedia weren’t invented yet either). Embarrassingly I organised 10-15 interviews for said role and asked everyone the same question. “Can you define what a “Business Analyst” does? And saying analysing business doesn’t count”. Funnily enough, I got 10-15 slightly different answers.
Makes it a difficult industry doesn’t it? Imagine the problems this causes.
I wonder how much of this occurs in the Consulting world, and the employment world in general? You notice that people look for “like for like” when they are hiring people, ie need someone with (x) amount of experience in say financial services or utilities or manufacturing for example. There is the assumption that the commonality of the domain will make the transition easier for people to “fit in” and be productive.
But what if a “widget isn’t a widget” in every environment? It is very important at the start of any assignment or job to clarify the ground rules up front. Stop the confusion, get things happening, even if you do feel stupid spelling things out that you think are obvious!
I have young school aged children, one in grade 3 and one in grade one this year (and one not far away from starting). It’s a wonderful time, watching them learn. They are still at a level where I think I can still help a little. I remember how I learned, how I went about doing things and realistically it worked out pretty well. My reading, writing and arithmetic aren’t too bad (mostly). I was pretty confident helping my kids out, but for some reason, the extra work they were doing with me did not really seem to be doing anything positive for them. My patience was being wasted, my “help” wasn’t helping, progress wasn’t being made. It was really concerning.
Skip ahead a little, and I attended a seminar at the school about something called THRASS (the system the school were using to teach my daughter to read). It suddenly made sense to me. I began to see the language in which my daughter was being taught, and the reasoning behind it. Without a word of a lie, I began utilitising their terms such as THRASS fist, graphemes and phonemes and within a week the change was amazing. Concepts seemed to be grasped, words discovered painlessly and the road to learning had turned into a freeway. It is really exciting to watch them just take off.
However, on reflection I was disappointed in myself for not seeing this earlier, I just didn’t think that what I was doing was hindering not helping. Once we got on the same page it was just amazing and humbling.
Maybe it was my enthusiasm to help my kids or an arrogance that I knew the way, whatever it was, it was wrong. I knew the lesson in work, now I know it at home. I wonder if the market will ever agree with me?