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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hands on keys

Posted on August 2, 2017

a mild, potentially peevish exhortation to resume working; references the computer keyboard, with the implication that hands presently idle should resume tapping away, creating value or finding uplift or suchlike things; generally interjected after a lull in activity or period of digression, as in “Alright guys, we’ve talked about this enough, hands on keys”; this jargon is based on the commonly-held notion that visible activity is synonymous with productivity, an assumption that does not always prove to be true

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guardrail to guardrail

Posted on July 26, 2017

to careen wildly between two extremes, usually implying out-of-control activity due to narrow focus on some other objective, as in “They tripled the advertising budget last quarter but after the earnings miss they want to zero it out, Marketing is just going guardrail to guardrail”; evokes the image of a driver speeding down a highway and narrowly missing crashing into the protective barriers on both edges of the road; can also be used to describe reckless or unthinking behavior without connoting a binary constraint; in rare instances may be used as an adjectival phrase, as in “Tom’s strategic vision is all over the place, his thinking is just guardrail to guardrail”

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out of pocket

Posted on July 19, 2017

a baffling term used to indicate unavailability, although the nature or owner of said pocket remains unknown; perhaps developed through mistaken conflation of ‘out of town’ with the standard phrase ‘out of pocket,’ which indicates expenses borne personally; in a business context the propensity to avoid simple, perfectly serviceable words like ‘unavailable’ or ‘unreachable’ that could connote a lack of team spirit has further driven usage of this term; a competing school of thought contends that this phrase has its roots in American football, when the quarterback leaves the area of protection afforded by his linesmen, though there is scant evidence to support this etymology 1

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  1. Confusion over the derivation of this term is widespread, with other speculative origins abounding on the internet, although none are definitive. It is noted as as a regionalism in parts of the Southern United States and has been attested in print as early as 1908, placing it among the limited examples of jargon that was not conjured up de novo by business types.