Guest Blog by MetaExpert Peter Brust: How Acronyms, Buzzwords and Jargon Undermine Operational Excellence

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Without a doubt, the worst communication problem that undermines Operational Excellence initiatives is the overuse of acronyms, buzzwords, jargon and foreign phrases. For some reason consultants and other “experts” believe that renaming concepts, techniques and activities will magically make them new again and better than they are. Nowhere is this more egregious than in the Lean arena where basic industrial engineering tools and everyday terms are presented in Japanese. For years I’ve seen machinists, operators, shop leads, and foremen, roll their eyes as they are introduced to a whole lexicon of “new” ideas/words (sometimes they are even written in Kanji script!).

The best way to communicate effectively, especially when working with the people on the value-added side of the business, is to: 1) Use plain English (or the prevailing native language). 2) Use everyday words instead of technical/exact terms, e.g. say “average” instead of “mean”. 3) Don’t introduce new terms/words/acronyms if an organization already has a word or phrase that is used to convey the same meaning, e.g. if a firm already uses the term “Non-Productive Activity (NPA)” don’t use “Non-value added,” “waste” or heaven forbid “muda.” Use what they already understand. In short, just DABIT*

*(Define Acronyms, Buzzwords, Idioms and Translate)

About Peter Brust: Mr. Brust is a Senior Manufacturing/Industrial Engineer with project management, startup, six sigma black belt, lean manufacturing, and R&D expertise. He possesses business savvy and is technically astute with a Ph.D., a Professional Engineering license and over 18 years of experience including 10 as an engineering consultant. He has worked on and managed productivity improvement projects in a wide variety of industries; literally everything from semiconductor chip fabrication to tortilla chip production.

Additional Reading

Lean Approaches to Rapid Product and Services Development, Ron Crabtree

Managing Risk While Going Lean — Learning From a Major Roll-out of Lean Methodologies, Ron Crabtree


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