flesh out

Posted on October 11, 2017

to add additional substance, depth or comprehensiveness to something, as if performing a strange form of reverse butchery1; suggests that an initial work product is incomplete in its current form, as in “Let’s flesh out the Asia-Pacific marketing plan before the next update meeting”; in everyday usage this term is quite often mixed up with the phrase flush out, which has the unrelated sense of causing something to be revealed, although despite this conflicting meaning it is generally understood as identical to flesh out; var. put meat on the bone

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  1. As in the creation of Frankenstein’s monster, though one hopes with more congenial effects.

drink from the fire hydrant

Posted on October 4, 2017

to attempt to absorb information in the midst of a rushing onslaught of the same; often used in the context of introducing a new arrival to a project or organization, as in “My first two days leading the analytics team I’ve just been drinking from the fire hydrant”; the phrase usually implies that the drinker is a willing participant in the process, connoting a sense of enthusiasm about the learning task; variant drink from the fire hose

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ducks and bunnies

Posted on September 27, 2017

an obscure term referring to a simple and visually appealing presentation with cheery connotations, as would be evoked by the sight of small harmless animals waddling or hopping to and fro; usage of this term is nuanced, as it can be a descriptor (“That sales pitch was just ducks and bunnies”) or a standalone noun (“For the quarterly review we need to have ducks and bunnies for the executives”); such content can have a mildly anesthetic effect on the audience, leaving a generally favorable impression without conveying much in the way of substance; conceptually similar to but less complex than a dog-and-pony show

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out of hide

Posted on September 20, 2017

a term used to indicate when work is outside of one’s formal areas of responsibility and so must be completed without any additional resources, as in “I’m on the reorganization project all day so this work on the Thailand proposal is out of hide”; may also imply that one will not be receiving credit or reward for one’s efforts, although the motives for out of hide work are rarely selfless; the phrase is used in U.S. defense contracting, in which a program that is out of hide must take funding out of existing budgets

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who’s driving the bus

Posted on September 13, 2017

(interrogative) asked when the leadership structure of a particular group or initiative is unclear, often posed in response to a perceived vacuum, as in “We’re getting conflicting directions from regional presidents on our new sales approach, we just need to know who’s driving the bus here”; can also be utilized as a descriptor, as in “I’ll be driving the bus for our annual conference”; like head of the snakethis phrase attempts to describe authority while simultaneously dulling any imperious overtones that might inhere in such a role through the use of lighthearted metaphor

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gold plating

Posted on September 6, 2017

features or characteristics that add unnecessary expense to a product or service, generally added due to unchecked enthusiasm or the desire to show off capabilities which, although possibly worthy on their own, have little relevance to the offering at hand; similar in concept to gild the lily, which refers to covering an already beautiful object in gold; implies that the one doing the plating does not appreciate the essential qualities of a product or has an inadequate understanding of the customer, and is instead throwing everything haphazardly into the solution1

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  1. This may be less of an issue today given the rise of “minimum viable product” as an idea, which leaves little room for superfluities. 

peanut butter

Posted on August 30, 2017

(verb) to apportion costs or other resources by crudely spreading them across departments, individuals, or some other group, as in “We don’t need to figure out exactly who used the HR reps, just peanut butter their salaries across every department”; used in situations where obtaining greater precision would be burdensome or not yield any meaningful insight; a particularly esoteric usage may add the modifiers “chunky” or “creamy” to further specify the nature of this allocation: the former having some variation due to a customized formula, the latter being even, and both being used only for comic purposes

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who’s who in the zoo

Posted on August 23, 2017

a jocular term that alludes to the variety of persons and roles present in a particular organization, generally used by way of introduction, as in “Before we dive in let me tell you who’s who in the zoo”; implies some level of organizational or situational complexity, and that the hearer will subsequently be familiarized with a group of individuals; the subtext of this phrase can include sharing who has authority for various decisions, who must be dealt with deferentially, or who must be satisfied for the overall effort to be successful

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head of the snake

Posted on August 16, 2017

a term used to indicate, without sounding too haughty about it, that one is the boss or otherwise holds chief responsibility for the subject in question, as in “When it comes to technology strategy I’m the head of the snake”; in this way one can simultaneously assert authority and disarm the listener who might be wary of any pretenses that come with this position; as with much jargon it appears to have been repurposed from a more general and sinister usage, in which the head of the snake refers to the primary leader of an enemy force, without whom the overall threat it presents would drop significantly; no such implications are contemplated in the business use of this term

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hairball

Posted on August 9, 2017

a tangled, indeterminate mess of processes, usually represented in a visual diagram as a nearly inscrutable web of lines, boxes, colors, or other adornments; often presented without irony by the manager of said processes, who is so deeply embedded within the system that he fails to notice the baroque nature of what he oversees; referring to something with this term acknowledges the inelegance while avoiding a negative or accusatory tone; as with cats, organizations often gag on these

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