Deciphering a company’s language-code

Jacques Lacan approached the unconscious via language. And you do not need to be influenced by Lacan to understand that there is a fascinating connection between our language, our actions and our thoughts.

Put aside the stories and narratives you are told when trying to understand an organization for a moment and listen to the words. You may hear words and phrases exposing the raw nerves of the company’s beliefs and DNA, as it were.

In my work, I often put together a short dictionary of a key phrases that are a part of the company’s vernacular-then work with the company to translate these words into what these words expose, and hide.

Here is an example of how this work is done. Company Y has six terms that repeat themselves in almost all meetings and chats: Challenging; Complex; Urgent; Damage Control; Sandbag; Phased Delivery.

Let’s look at the meaning. Challenging means that something is beyond our capability and/or resources. Complex means that we do not (yet) have a solution. Urgent means what we need to do today, at the expense of everything else. Damage control means catching up with our committments all at once and/or cooling off the customer with sweet talk, discounts or future functionality. Sandbag means to exaggerate the amount of time needed to do something to prevent management tasking you with more work. Phased Delivery means promising one thing, and delivering far less, and catching up in stages. Often the first phase of phased delivery is giving nothing but more promises.

Now imagine a series of discussions in a company where this dictionary is discussed, and certain terms are phased out and replaced by others.

Like the signs I remember on the Montreal Metro: Dit pas “le weekend; dit la fin de semaine. (This encouraged the proper use of the French language)

And thus, over time, language and actions become more accurate and less obtuse, internally and with the client.

Yes with the client as well. Whether this is good or bad is the subject of another post.









Share Button

3 thoughts on “Deciphering a company’s language-code

  1. Brilliant!!!! Very useful too. Interesting how ingrained Montreal is for you and for me. You help open up my own Montreal influences. I lived in three cultures- French, Jewish and English dropping my Hebrew as I arrived from Israel at five years old. Sorting and acquiring and losing— a lifelong process.

  2. Pingback: Strange untranslatable words that organizations use | Allon Shevat-אלון שבט

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.