Words absent meaning

I have a newly acquired pet peeve: trying to discuss a Lean organization.

Why is this a pet peeve?  Because “Lean organization” is a high level abstraction that in common usage does not have a common definition.

Try this experiment for yourself: Ask two or three or four people what a Lean organization is and see what they say.  Did they all list similar attributes or did their definitions vary wildly?  In my experience it is likely that their definitions vary wildly.

Why is this important?  Because in organizations we are often searching for another high level abstraction “alignment” and in our search for “alignment” we mistakenly assume that if two people when asked, “What type of organization do you want to be?” spout back to us, “Why, a Lean organization of course.” that we have somehow achieved “alignment.”  In reality, all we have done is teach the parrots how to repeat the new often-said phrases of our organization.

When an organization’s words lack meaning you have  a hollow organization.  Hollow organizations think they are making progress toward their goals when really they are talking themselves into a stupor.

If you’re curious how to free yourself or your organization from such a stupor, check out Stuart Chase’s 1939 classic, Tyranny of Words.  You’ll never treat words the same again.

Let’s fight for meaning, one word at a time.

Why not try?

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