shake the trees

Posted on November 14, 2017

to attempt to revive a moribund organization or part thereof through radical action, as in “Sales have been down for three quarters so we’d better shake the trees here”; conveys the sense of rousing individuals from their torpor and triggering frantic, surprised activity that is nonetheless appropriate given the urgency of a situation; suggests that the intended targets are analogous to a flock of birds nestled high in the foliage and unconcerned with realities on the ground; an alternate, less common meaning is to attempt to gain quick benefit through some simple action, as if dislodging fruit already on the verge on falling

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granular

Posted on November 8, 2017

a detailed level of abstraction, often used when referring to the coarseness of a particular analysis, as in: “We need to get more granular on those Asian revenue projections, China needs separate numbers”; can imply that the work under review or the thinking it represents is insufficiently sophisticated or not specific enough for implications to be drawn out; related to the term texture, which suggests a level of metaphorical magnification that allows details to be seen; obliquely related to color, which references elements that provide greater impact or nuance

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hands

Posted on November 1, 2017

often prefaced with ‘client’, this term is used to indicate the interpersonal skills of an individual in relation to a particular group of people, as in “That manager sure has great client hands”; connotes dexterity in navigating relationships and anticipating and assuaging concerns while ensuring nothing of significance is neglected; in a commercial context this skill has the unspoken aim of generating sales as a result, although someone with good hands deftly sublimates any pecuniary motives in his or her interactions; the word is used more literally in the context of certain sports to describe athletes with superb catching or ball-handling abilities1

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  1. Perhaps the most longstanding business usage of the term is in the motto and logo of the Allstate insurance company, which rarely misses the opportunity to ask, in the soothing bass rumble of Dennis Haysbert, if you are in good hands.

plowed ground

Posted on October 25, 2017

a topic or area that has previously been the subject of sufficient discussion or analysis, rendering further work unnecessary; used when the speaker desires to steer the conversation in another direction while softly deflecting someone’s enthusiasm; instead of “We already looked into using blockchain for employee reviews, it’s time to move on Jeff”, a speaker could instead interject “No need to reopen that topic, it’s plowed ground”; the metaphor breaks down when one considers that plowed ground must yet be sown, cultivated, and eventually reaped; the term may also refer to a market that is saturated or otherwise adequately addressed, suggesting that one must look elsewhere for viable opportunities, as in “I don’t see an opening for another cupcake bakery chain, that market is plowed ground”

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crayon analysis

Posted on October 18, 2017

a quick, crude and usually quantitative evaluation done to assess the magnitude of a situation, decision, etc.; calls to mind the hasty scribblings of a toddler and suggests that the result should be regarded with similar reverence; like several other expressions it aims to deflect onerous scrutiny through the use of childish metaphor; implies less sophisticated analysis than the related back of the envelope

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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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