Same words, different language

I consider myself a pretty smart guy. I mean not Steve, Hal or Ahbi smart (guys I went to uni with who seemed to find everything just easy), but able to walk and chew gum at the same time kind of competent. Today reminded me that I have to learn things every day.

As a program director it is easy to assume that you can deal with anything if you just think things through and get a plan together.

What you sometimes forget, as I did today, is that not everyone speaks your language. After 25 years of working in this field, I still make mistakes.

In the project and program world you pull together your product breakdown structure, the sequencing, the quality parameters and the outcome definitions and off you go with resource allocations based on skills matrices.

All clear, right?

No. Sadly, not clear.

Every profession has their acronyms, their terminology and methods. Programs are no different.

The difference in the program world is that we are there to help others deliver their goals. We don’t usually deliver ours. That means that it is our responsibility to make sure when we speak we are clear in the way our key stakeholders understand.

It is not the responsibility of our stakeholders to understand our language. It is our responsibility to make sure that we are understood. It is so easy when you have heavy workloads and are time poor to revert to the terminology that you are most familiar with. Program Speak. The trouble is that while most people understand the words individually, when we put them in the order that we often do, people don’t always understand what we say. We speak the same words, but people see that as a different language.

As program professionals our success relies upon others seeing that we are successful. The only way to do this is to get to a common understanding.

Take the time to talk through what you mean, not just what you say. In the end that is what will make the difference and see programs succeed.

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Nathan Jones

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