Dilbert and BPM’s geek speak

The phrase “Dilbert moment” is etched in American culture and for very good reason. Scott Adams’ Dilbert cartoon is so wildly popular because there is always a fair amount of truth behind the workplace situations that Dilbert, the Pointy-Haired Boss, Wally, Ted, Alice and the rest of the cast live out in a comic world. It can be called “painfully funny.”

Geek Speak

Unfortunately, when many people in the organization think of BPM, they imagine conversations that are very Dilbert-like with phrases such as “overcome challenges and drive transformations”.  This leaves them scratching their heads and questioning,  “where’s the value?”

BPM matters

This is truly a shame because there really is something behind BPM-done-well.  When organizations take the time and have the discipline to say what they do, they can then do what they say. This is a game-changing concept but only happens when business process management is meaningful and not geek speak.

What are the concrete steps to avoid the pitfalls of incoherence and irrelevance? Look carefully at your language and ask yourself, “If I wasn’t in process management, what terms would I use?” The answer is that you’d be talking about the specific problem, the specific steps to a solution, and the specific expected outcome. In a word, you’d be talking about ‘traction’.

Traction is the opposite of geek speak. It is the way you go about describing and achieving concrete results. Your reputation and your success depend on it.


Categories: Workplace Reality

Author:Tom Molyneux

A business process strategist with a focus on real-time event management.

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8 Comments on “Dilbert and BPM’s geek speak”

  1. Tom Bellinson
    March 28, 2012 at 9:55 am #

    Interestingly, Gino Wickman (a guy from my neck of the woods), has written a book called “Traction.” It is all about the process of managing a company. There’s a big focus on solving problems (i.e. process optimization) and getting things done (execution). If you read a lot of business books, you’ll recognize some of the ideas, but the packaging of the ideas is very pragmatic. Take a look.

  2. March 28, 2012 at 11:12 am #

    It is unfair to blame the “vocabulary of business” and condemn it as “jargon” or “geek speak”.

    Highly specific and distinct concepts of a domain / business need specific terms to refer to them. They improve clarity and precision of communication. Some people may inappropriately and deliberately misuse the “business vocabulary” and such people may be condemned—not the “business vocabulary”.

  3. March 28, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

    The issues seems to be the many different definitions of BPM. Type it into Google and see how many results you get.

    We need to step away from BPM and focus on solving specific problems – like poor customer satisfaction, excessive product rework, or the cost of compliance.

    That grounds the project in a specific outcomes. Not as much as fun as meetings, particularly in France where there is wine served, but it does get results.

  4. March 29, 2012 at 7:37 am #

    Jargon within any functional area can be confusing to anyone that is not familiar with it or uses it on a regular basis. I would compare it for example to a sports fanatic that speaks to everyone using the specific terminology of golf or baseball. Many people will glaze over not understanding what an RBI is or “greens in regulation” or the RPG of a bowling ball. I have always found the most success when being able to understand the level of understanding of the audience I’m speaking to and develop messaging to that audience with that in mind. It may seem simple; however it is not easy, but extremely effective. You not only gain trust and interest, but also increase the potential for credibility and as that develops your message can start to include different terminology and thus you end up with better “traction.”

  5. François Foulem
    April 4, 2012 at 5:22 am #

    On a related note, here is a cute video of jargon speak in the Canadian governement.

    This will bring a smile to your face 🙂

  6. April 22, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    I liked your post Chris. This is really a topic (wrt BPM) that has had me (and many others) thinking the most. Like you say, BPM matters and there is value in it. But it takes focus to get it right. And as Ian summed it up very well – BPM needs a firm root on the outcomes. This is really not the first time we (those of us doing BPM) have talked about it. And Yet, there isn’t enough evidence that all that promise and potential from BPM has been realized fully, and as often as you’d expect. As you said, “This is truly a shame because there really is something behind BPM-done-well.

    But I feel the general awareness is improving and I hope we will be able to fully exploit BPM soon and more consistently – if only we started by understanding the big picture of BPM better.

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