over the wall

Posted on December 13, 2017

a term used when functional units operate in isolation, implying that projects are passed off from one group to the next without cooperation or coordination and so without regard for the needs of the downstream user; conjures up an image of objects tossed blindly over a separating wall to the next group, as in “The developers didn’t talk to marketing at all before going live, that’s an over-the-wall design” (used here as an adjective); can also be used to refer to the final delivery of a product or service, which is then irretrievably thrown over the metaphorical wall of a company to the end user

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ring the cash register

Posted on December 6, 2017

to make quick and profitable sales or collect earnings in some other straightforward manner; derives from the era of the mechanical cash register, for which completion of a transaction triggers the automatic opening of the cash drawer accompanied by an audible ring; a continual backdrop of ringing would thus result from a high frequency of sales, implying rapidly accruing profits; the phrase points to an opportunity to gain income or build up cash reserves that requires little effort

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stirring a pot of water

Posted on November 28, 2017

to perform a task that requires meaningful expenditure of energy and time but yields no conceivable benefits; may be done unwittingly, in which case this phrase may be used to gently admonish the hearer of the futility of his efforts, redirecting him to more productive tasks; this activity may also be done to provide the appearance of productivity to outsiders, who will not investigate further and thus uncover the truth; rel., water the grass in a thunderstorm

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chalk the field

Posted on November 22, 2017

to establish the parameters under which subsequent activities will take place, from the analogy to preparing a sports field for play by marking boundary lines, goal areas, etc.; used when preliminary steps are necessary to guide what ensues, as in “We need to spend the first month in each expansion region chalking the field”; can also suggest the definition or explication of regulatory or ethical boundaries to ensure that permissible behaviors are understood

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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.