The Curse Of Jargons

How Jargons Are Killing The Management World

Jargons are suffocating the management world. And this is not just an opinion but a fact. So what are Jargons. On searching high and mighty for the meaning of this word called “Jargon” I came across this “Official” meaning.

Noun : Jargon

Plural nounjargons

Meaning: “Special words or expressions used by a profession or group that are difficult for others to understand”.

And frankly that’s exactly how it is used in the real world.

Jargons - 1

People have started using jargons a lot to show as if they really know something, while in reality, they may know nothing. This all started in US when white-collar jobs started making their presence felt and many new organizations started that were purely marketing, financial or IT based. With the onset of the white collar jobs, started, the concept of meetings. Within meetings people had to start using technical terms to show they know something; and soon those technical terms were laced with “Jargons” to further “Show off” their knowledge without really committing to anything or without having a grasp of what they were supposed to do in the first place.

Jargons have become a norm now and almost everyone is trying to outdo the other in coming out with more “Impromptu” and “Stylish” and “Better Sounding” jargons.

The problem with jargons is that no one knows what it truly means but professionals are supposed to take decisions based on words and sentences that are heavily laced with jargons.

Let share a real instance with you.

One day when I was working in an IT products company leading a team in Japan for the very first “Anti-Fraud Management Engine” that would predict “Suspected Frauds” just by monitoring transactions in real time, my manger, who was notorious for never ever having clarity on what was going on, came up to us during one of the reviews and suggested that our approach towards providing solution should be a “Cookie Cutter Solution”. Just like you, we were not sure what it meant. The funny part was that none of the people present in the meeting room even asked what it meant as no one wanted to appear “Uninformed” and “not up with the things…”.

Later we came to know that he had spent half the day at a “Massage parlour” instead of going through the “Project Documentation” and was not updated about the project whatsoever but still wanted to show everyone that he is on top of things. Luckily we just continued with our own way of working and it became a resounding success.

That was my first encounter with “Jargon”.

I went on to observe that some of these “Professionals” had created their entire career on these “jargons” and if they did not use jargons everyone would know that their knowledge and management skills were probably less than ordinary.

Jargons - 2

From that moment on, whenever I entered an important meeting I would watch out for those uttering most Jargons and they eventually turned out to be people with the least grasp on the situation or have entered the meeting completely unprepared. I am not the only one who understood this. Soon this “management Jargon-in-mouth” disease spread far and wide and in all realms of organizational hierarchy, as it was an easy way out to sound impressive even if you are not well prepared. What is even worse, I saw that the senior most management and executives, people who make strategic decisions, tended to appreciate such utterances. This had the effect of spreading this disease even more deep into the organization.

As of now the world of Management is in a state of complete chaos with Jargons even having entered Professional courses and management schools.

Jargons seem to have a life of their own. It’s as if the management almighty thundered his commandments, “Here are your 10 Jargons, Go forth and multiply them”; and all the “Faithful” followed suite. Biblical proportions, you bet!

Let me give you some examples of jargons which people use regularly, and based on which business directions and management decisions are taken.

  1. Cutting edge solution
  2. State of the art
  3. Ball park figure
  4. Satellite view, 30,000 ft view, Top of the Mountain View, 40,000 ft view.
  5. Lets play hardball.
  6. Time to hit the ground running
  7. The map has not changed just the topology (favourite among the Marketing guys)
  8. Get the ducks in a row
  9. Time to have your / our feelers out
  10. Give me the Low down on this
  11. Our management must be “Suite to nuts”
  12. Value Added offerings
  13. Customer delight
  14. Customer Ecstasy
  15. We need “disruptors”
  16. Seamless integration
  17. Bleeding edge
  18. Game Changing
  19. Drop dead date
  20. Negotiating for more “Wiggle Room”
  21. Lets put these Ideas on the “Backburner”
  22. Mission Critical
  23. Show stopper
  24. That’s where the rubber meets the road
  25. Insourcing, near sourcing, nearest insourcing
  26. Silver bullet approach
  27. Under the radar / Over the radar
  28. Dis – ambiguate
  29. Do we have the bandwidth
  30. Lets take it up “Offline”

Whew….that’s a long list and it’s not even close to being done. I am sure 3 new Jargons were introduced to this fragile ecology of “Authentic Management” by the time you finished this blog. Imagine these words being dropped on you day and night and you would still be expected to deliver results.

If you get to hear more than 10 such jargons listed above in a 2 hrs meeting then for sure nothing worthwhile was done in that meeting.

“Just like an Octopus which spews ink when under threat to confuse its predator, professionals spew out Jargons when they are faced with a situation they are ill prepared with”.   © PM-Pulse

Some companies actively discourage jargons within their communication and offices to ensure that everyone understands exactly what it means without much confusion.

Communication is the single most powerful thread that keeps an organization focused on its goals and if this communication is laced with Jargons just imagine what would happen to the communication clarity and disbursement.

This habit of using jargons have reached epidemic proportions and its high time we actively put an end to this and only use terms, words and acronyms that have a standard meaning in the line of business you are in.

Statistically speaking, at an average every single management professional spends 60% of his entire professional life in meetings. That is a huge chunk of time collectively within an organization and just imagine if most of this time is wasted due to incessant use of “Jargons”.

The thing about Jargons is that, we love it when we use it, and hate it when others use it. Jargons also tend to foster unhealthy politics within meetings. This makes it a rather complex management practice that should be just done away with.

It would be remiss if I do not differentiate “Jargons” from “Management Terms”.  Terms are those words and sentences which have a specific meaning as they have been published by an Institute or a certification agency or the custodian of Industry Best Practices. For example, the term “Stakeholder” or “Gold Plating” has a specific meaning and is not open to interpretation as its mentioned in PMBOK Guide published by the Project Management Institute, USA, but the term “Coding Ninja” or “Serial Disruptor” has absolutely no “Standard” or “Documented” definition and hence is open to a plethora of interpretations.

So how do Jargons get created?

This is a rather unexplained phenomena. It has been observed that this is usually started by a rather influential person in a meeting or a speech or an industry specific meet or conference and tends to get adopted by multitudes of people over time. Some jargons become more circulated because they sound nice (E.g. Customer Delight) irrespective of who writes them. Many management experts feel that most jargons owe their origins to the “Marketing and Sales” literature created by so many marketing and sales professionals who are hounded to write “Something new” in their sales pitch or to create a “Differentiator”.

Whatever the case may be. Just stay away from Jargons. Do not use them. If someone else uses them then just insist on “meaning” or “explanation” of that jargon. This would dissuade others to use the jargons as well.

Using a “Slang”……… well that’s a completely different story for another blog.

Do the management world a favour… “Go forth and contribute to a Jargon free business world”.

The Real Expense Of Cheap Training

 

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Let me tell you two stories.

Jagmohan a very promising HR professional who had joined a spanking new manufacturing organization which had been a market leader of sorts in Asia Pacific region, in its line of business.

This organization has been doing rather well as far as projects were concerned as long as the company was smaller with closely knit teams which used to all sit together in the same building. Success came and with it came growth. With growth came diversification and tremendous increase in head-count. New professionals, new ideas and new ways of working came into play and soon there were many “Business Units” within the organization with their own teams and than there were these “Production Lines” which had their own departments and work force. All of them grouped and located in different physical buildings and geographies.

It was not long that the euphoria of growth lost its sparkle. Projects were not finishing on time, decisions were taking forever to be made, several layers of hierarchy was making the “Ownership” of deliverables complex, teams were rife with “Conflicts” and their managers seem to be party to such conflicts, project tracking were getting increasingly “abstract” and to top it all there were mounting complaints and dissatisfaction from the Customers. In effect the very professionalism that gave them success and growth seemed to vanish almost immediately after the growth.

Jagmohan was hired to specifically address this growing concern. His main target was to find out the underlying reasons and gaps for such “lackluster” performance by teams as well as to find a solution for the same. The idea was to get the teams delivering projects again on time and within budget.

Jagmohan was not new to such issues and had undertaken similar work for introducing “Balanced Score Card” Model in his previous organization.

Jagmohan immediately got to work. Identified the necessary stakeholders and started discussing the weak areas and before long he had a good list of “Improvement Areas”. However he soon started to realize that he may have bitten more than he could chew. Unlike the operations based “Balanced Score Card Method”, Project Management had humungous permutations and combinations and almost every single business unit had a different view and different expectations in terms of required Project Management Skills for their team. He was finding it increasingly difficult to find common “Treads” or “Skills” that he could formulate some trainings around.

He got in touch with the training provider that he knew in his previous organization. The training provider suggested that one of the best things to do is just go for a “PMP®” training. This would not only cover “Everything” on the topic of project management, it would also give a global benchmarks to the participants which in turn would help the organizations image.

And so began the cycle of floating the PMP® idea to all the stakeholders within the organization. Every one was impressed and this lead to the next step of finding the right “Training Partner” who could actually provide this training to all the Project Teams in batches and in different locations so that the entire project team would be covered.

Jagmohan did further studies and went to the PMI site and downloaded the syllabus and other handbooks that are needed to understand what all this certification entailed. This was a good exercise because now Jagmohan was well equipped to interview and screen the candidates for the “PMP® training partner”.

The stakeholders identified about 800 employees to be covered with this training.

The process of selecting the right candidate began. Jagmohan knew that the PMP certification is a standard training and hence the focus should be the cost as it would make a huge difference. For every quote he would multiply the no. of persons with the quote and see how much it would cost him. Jagmohan was always good at numbers so it was not long before he could identify the one he would finally choose. He was the cheapest one. Now jagmohan wanted to save some more money for the organization. He realized that he would negotiate a per batch deal with the training partner instead of the per person deal. This further saved a lot of money for the organization. Now since this became a per batch deal there was no limit to the no. of persons he could put in every batch. So he further negotiated with the training partner that there should be 40 persons per batch. This would mean he would need only 20 batches.

Jagmohan got the training batches started. Jagmohan, being an experienced person having worked in large organizations, also knew how to take credit for good work done. So he prepared a very nice excel sheet showing different prices that people were quoting and who he saved so many hundred thousand rupees. He got accolades and in one of the functions he even got an award for his diligent work.

Trainings went on…. And soon the euphoria around the training started to die down. More and more stakeholders stared to complain that despite so many trainings there was nothing visibly better in real world project management. The problems remained more or less the same. Increasing no. of the trained persons could not clear the exams. Increasing no. of trained persons showed a lot of unhappiness with the training methodology. Many even said that they did not need so much of unnecessary information. While many started to complain that what is the use for us to get trained on project management when our seniors did not follow the same manner of project management. The troubles and complaints…. Which started as a trickle now came in waves of flood and torrents. There was almost an organization wide demotivation and soon more and more senior managers started to say that … I guess we as an organization are not the right candidate for Project Management.

Does this story sound familiar…..

I have heard this story so many times that its almost seems like a global phenomenon.

Should we even try to calculate how much did it cost for the wrong and cheap training in this organization in terms of totally failed investment, productive hours lost, lack of motivation and disillusionment towards a global certification and to top it all lost a huge chance of taking their organization to the next level of project management. The cost, if calculable, would probably result into Millions of rupee losses.

Now I guess its time for the Second Story.

Ankita who had just come out of a Management School with specialization in HR and Organizational learning, was picked up from the campus to work in a rather large organization. They were a smaller startup about 5 yrs back and they had done some remarkable work in the past in their close knit teams and achieved grand success. They grew very fast and got 2 rounds of funding in quick succession. They too were suffering from the lack of co-ordination due to tremendous growth and that their teams, despite being highly skilled, were unable to complete projects and assignments in time. They were also spending more than the budget almost in all the projects. This was making their funding partners edgy as this way the more the projects they would do the more the losses the company would generate. Something had to be done. The organizations collective project management competency was to be raised and fast.

Ankita was immediately put on to this work. Her target was to help identify the right candidate to become the organizations training partner. They started searching for the training partners and almost every one was recommending PMP trainings. She was told that PMP contains every thing that is needed in a Project and also has a global benchmark hence would be the best thing to do for them. Ankita did a research and went on to the PMI site and realized that…. Truly PMP certification was the best and most appropriate global certification that covered every aspect of project management and what’s more it was Domain or Industry agnostic.

She was about to finalize a pmp training partner with the cheapest quotation when a relatively less known training organization approached them. The person from the training organization was insisting on talking to some stakeholders within the organization and not just the HR persons. This seemed odd but for some reason it felt as if the person knew what he was talking about. Hence Ankita arranged a call. The person kept asking questions after questions and almost seemed to know exactly what kind of problems were being faced by the organizations. After a call that lasted nearly 30 minutes more than the allotted time the person said he will create certain options for them and send it to them for their consideration. Ankita waited for the options. She received an email that had very different approach. The approach said that there should be three different kinds of training for the targeted professionals within the organization based on the three different kinds of roles that were apparent. The approach stated that the senior managers who were to track and support the project managers did not need full PMP training …all they needed was a Project Management appreciation which would ensure they would know all the necessary tools and skills to start, scope and track a project well.

The approach document stated that the second group that mostly consisted of Project Managers would be trained on PMP but it would customized in such a way that despite the fact it would cover all topics of PMP it would pay more stress on the improvement areas that had been identified during the call. The entire Time management would be done using the Microsoft Project tool as the organization had sufficient no. of licenses for the same.

The approach document also stated that the third group that is basically from Cross functional teams who are required to support the Project Managers in executing the projects but were essentially reporting to their respective operational heads or heads of Departments….. would be trained using a customized and lighter version of Project Management training that would give them just the right tools and skills and knowledge to help “Contribute” to the projects when they are required to work on a project.

When Ankita did the total cost calculations she realized that this training organization was costing more than the other training organizations but she also saw that this is the only training organization which was interested to know what were the real issues within the organization and like a doctor was recommending surgical solutions …just the right medicine for the right ailments. She had always know that a Cheap doctor is not always the best doctor.

She had a long meeting with her senior manager and was finally able to convince that they should go for this new training organization with three levels of customized trainings.

The first to be trained were the Senior Mangers. This laid down the backbone of professionalism in Project Management within the top layer of the organization. Suddenly all the senior managers were speaking a common language. The co-ordination among them improved and they all started to think on the Strategic aspects of project management. While this happened the project managers began to see a visible change in the way the senior managers started to work with them and guide them. This created a very good effect among the Project managers and now they were looking forward to their targeted training. When the time came for the training the Project Managers were all very receptive and wanted to focus more on the practical aspect of project management rather than just lapping up “Academic” concepts. Soon after the series of trainings for Project Managers a very healthy competition started among them…as to who would clear the exams first. The found that it was so easy to reach out to this new training provider and seek guidance. This gave a lot of confidence to the Project Manager. Soon more and more project managers started to clear the PMP exams and started becoming highly efficient in real world project management as not only the were good at it …. They were also getting very good support from the senior management …who were very informed on strategic project management and were providing excellent support and mentoring to the project managers. The project management tool’s use made the life of a lot of project managers much easier and they were able to handle more work with lesser effort. Focusing on Critical path also allowed them to have a much better Work life balance than they earlier had.

Now came the turn of the third group. By this time there was already so much positivity surrounding these trainings that the Operational support staff were eagerly waiting for their turn. After their training got over they suddenly realized that how Operational work and project work are so different and have to be handled differently. The Project Managers found much superior understanding among the cross functional teams and this gave rise to a much better working environment and healthy collaboration.

Ankita could actually see and measure the improvement in organization wide project management effectiveness. She too had attended a training and hence now knew exactly which measures and what benchmarks to be used to measure the “Practical and real” improvement within the organization after the trainings.

Ankita and her boss got a citations for amazing work done. They also got invited to HR forums where they presented their case study. Ankita saw that while she was presenting her slides every one was finding it very interesting but on particular person was finding it very informative as he was taking detailed notes. After the presentation that same person walked up to Ankita and congratulated her on great work done. He wanted the contact details of that training organization and also wanted to get in touch with Ankita for more details. They exchanged visiting cards. Ankita looked at the card provided by this person…. And noticed that his name was ……. Jagmohan.

There is nothing more expensive to an organization than a wrong training done just because it was cheap.

What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence is the new “Buzz Word” for sure. And like any other “Buzz Word” this is being lapped up, imbibed, written on and dissolved into organization culture by various organizations without much thought to what it really is.

To make matters worse, this “Buzz Word” is being hijacked by Training Providers and Human Resource Consultants to churn out “Trainings” and “Consulting” on this topic, with more focus on “encashing the Buzz” than accuracy. This in turn promotes more confusion then interest in the subject.

Today this term is being miss-represented to mean anything to every thing; some “Experts” present it simply as “Ability not to get annoyed” while some “Experts” present it as though it comprises every single Soft skills, communication skills or interpersonal and even leadership skills in its folds.

In the true spirit of PM-Pulse, which loves to de-mystify topics and subjects around Management, let us have a look at what really this “Buzz Word” of Emotional Intelligence means.

Emotional Intelligence simply means “Understanding emotions of Self to get along well with others”.  Yes it’s as simple as that… well its as simple as that as far as the definition is concerned but to achieve it… well that’s a different story.

Though a lot of people think that it was “Daniel Goleman” who invented this term “Emotional Intelligence”, this term was actually invented by two chaps Peter Salovey and John Mayer in 1990 though people have been struggling with this topic (using different terms) even as far back as 1930’s. The origins of this principle is from Vedas and has been mentioned in Bhagwat Geeta in the following verse.

manaḥprasādaḥ saumyatvaḿ

maunam ātmavinigrahaḥ

bhāva-saḿśuddhir ity etat

tapo mānasam ucyate

Very loosely translated it means “Stability of the mind and gravity in thinking purifies self and wins over others”. A very large section of Vedas discuss this “Power over self” and has even given specific steps to attain them. Starting with Atm Bodh (Knowledge of Self), Atm Gyaanam (Self Wisdom), Maunam (Gravity in thinking or being insulated to outside stimulus)…and so on all the way to the ultimate Moksha (being at one with the universe).

Well you do not really have to attain moksh: to be good at “Emotional Intelligence”, you just need to understand what it relates to and which is “Mastery over self thought to have influence over others”.

The whole idea is how does your emotions react to the various external stimulus and to what extent. You cannot control the “Happening” of the Stimulus but you can control how your emotions react to those stimulus. And that is the essence of this topic. Now if you have good control over emotions you become very objective. Once you are objective you understand other’s emotions better and when that happens you have “Gravity” in your personality and you become perceptive and develop empathy towards others. This gives you amazing power of “Influence” over others.

This is still a developing science in western countries and management circles but has been highly researched in the Vedas and very well presented in some of the verses of Bhagwad Geeta.

Daniel Goleman in his book “Emotional Intelligence” that he published in 1995 he stated the following outcome of his research..”What distinguishes great leaders from merely good ones? It isn’t IQ or technical skills, its Emotional Intelligence: a group of five skills that enable the best leaders to maximize their own and their followers’ performance. When senior management at once company had a critical mass of EI capabilities, their divisions outperformed yearly earnings goals by 20%.”

The five EI skills that Goleman mentioned are best shown as under and they also have to be undertaken in the following steps: –

Steps EI Skill Definition Personality Traits
1. Self-Awareness Knowing one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values and goals as well as their impact on others. ·        Self confidence

·        Realistic about self abilities

·        Self-deprecating sense of humor

·        Thirst for constructive criticism

2. Self-Regulation Controlling or redirecting disruptive emotions and impulses. ·        Trustworthiness

·        Integrity

·        Comfort with ambiguity and change

3. Motivation Being driven to achieve for the sake of achievement ·        A passion for the work itself and for new challenges

·        Unflagging energy to improve

·        Optimism in the face of failure

4. Empathy Considering others’ feelings, especially when making decisions. ·        Expertise in attracting and retaining talent

·        Ability to develop others

·        Sensitivity to cross-cultural differences

5. Social Skill Managing relationships to move people in desired directions. ·        Effectiveness in leading change

·        Persuasiveness

·        Extensive networking

·        Expertise in building and leading teams

I would suggest that you go through the table again and treat them as sequential steps where you cannot proceed to the next step in EI evolution without having mastered your previous step.

This table is a good checklist for “Atm Bodh” (Knowledge of self) and see where you stand against this checklist. And for this you must take feedback from others.

This is what emotional intelligence is all about.

How do you become good at it? Well that’s the matter for the next blog. Stay tuned.

PMP® and Reality

Yey! Hoorah! Congratulations ….you are now a Certified Project Management Professional from PMI, USA. You worked hard and you gave up some of your pastimes to prepare and get through the exams. You held your cool during the 4 hrs of grueling exams and you PASSED……. Whew.

Take a week to enjoy and bask in the new found glory while it lasts …as the real challenge has just begun.

As project management gains practical relevance and recognition in the business world as the de-facto mode for achieving organizational strategy and goals there is growing need for certified PMP® s across the domain across the world. And it is generally understood that a PMP® certified professional commands more respect and a higher salary then the non-certified project professional.

However all this is fast changing. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that one should not be certified, I am the last one to say this as I have a rather successful organization which is affiliated to PMI as their Global REP. What I am saying is that the hiring organizations are getting more and more disillusioned by certified professionals and this heartbreaking trend is only increasing instead of ebbing as the time passes. All this while the demand for quality Project professionals is on the rise. What an irony.

This trend is even more poignant in India.

How did we get here? What happened down the line? Why are certified project professionals looked upon as academic rather then practical?

This is very closely connected to the way how we obtain our driving licenses. There is absolutely no guarantee that we can drive just because we are a licensed driver.

Similarly the answer to this irony lies in the way the entire journey of project professionals have been sold to the aspiring candidates by the training providers. Yes you read it right …it’s the training providers that are the culprits in this case.

As the demand for quality project professionals grew the training providers dived into this sea of opportunity and throwing around guarantees for passing the exams and ensuring mastering the certification etc. to corner the maximum no of candidates for their courses. As more and more organizations joined in to milk the cash cow the target shifted from “mastering project management” to “mastering certification”. Thus the trainings became cheaper (not just in terms of price) and the certification got oversold. Certain books from an American author became even more popular as it seemed to give just the right kind of information to clear the exams and nothing more or less. Scores passed the exams and then applied for better positions and jobs. And this is where everything got unraveled.

Passing the exams is one thing and handling a real world project in a real world, is another. Soon more and more certified professionals started failing to bring any major improvement to the project management in organizations. Organizational wide and later industry wide disillusionment set in. Heightened expectations of hirers were dashed to the ground in most cases. Certified professionals also started to doubt why such a thing is happening. People wrongly started doubting the certification itself.

Now a days when we collect requirements from an organization for conducting a training course for them, many of them come back to us saying “please we do not need certification we need practical training.” It takes me a very long time to explain that certification course is not just academic but highly effective and practically relevant.

My message for you is simple you do not have to be a certified professional to be a great project manager. The global certification of PMP® is only great if you can apply the concept practically which means you were taught this course from a very practical standpoint.  If you just go for a PMP® training and somehow pass, do not expect any major change in your career status or pay scale status for some time. No one pays for your academics, you get paid for what you bring to the table by way of effectiveness, leadership, commitment, process optimization, quality, foresight, communication abilities, practical engagement with stakeholders etc. And all this are part of the coveted PMP® certification course provided you were taught the right way.

Project management is probably the most exiting and amazing career option in the world today and it has the potential to catapult you to the very top provided you understand it, follow it, use it and imbibe it in your work and project life. Else you would be just a “Paper tiger”.

Choose your career partner carefully.

 PMP® is the registered mark of The Project Management Institute, USA.