Meaty Methods and Novel Names

Measure the substance of a process by what is left over when you remove its terminology.

Processes, methodologies, and frameworks often exhibit a compulsion to invent novel names for ordinary concepts, and to create highly specialized senses of everyday words. Examples include “Voice of the Customer” in Six Sigma and “fast tracking” in PMI parlance. Sometimes, there are benefits to having such names, but these are mainly¬† associated with efficiencies in explaining the process/method/framework itself. Even if a specialized vocabulary would help me communicate with other members of the cognoscenti, I’m usually communicating with a mixed audience, and so my grasp of the vocabulary atrophies for want of practice. (When I mentioned “fast tracking” a few sentences back, I had to go look up the term to remind myself of its specific meaning – i.e., doing things in parallel – in the PMI world.)

Outside of the phase in which somebody is learning about the process/method/framework, I’m not sure there’s much to be gained from wrapping special terminology around common sense concepts. In large part, I judge the substance of a process/method/framework (not its correctness or applicability – those are different matters) in terms of what’s offered outside of the vocabulary. If I didn’t have to use your terminology (hint: I probably won’t), how much is left to learn? That’s the meat.

The high-level DMAIC (Define / Measure / Analyze / Improve / Control) process of Six Sigma fame is not very meaty. It’s more like terminological shorthand for how an intelligent and methodical person would go about solving a problem in a serious way. You don’t learn it so much as recognize what the Six Sigma folks want you to call it. In contrast, the idea that I should focus on process control via standard deviations and have to measure conscientiously in order to do so – a key tenet of Six Sigma that fills out the intended implementation of DMAIC – is pretty meaty.

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