Fusion Blog

Is this Real Labor or just Braxton Hicks?

OK, so here’s thing, I am pretty tired of sports analogies being used in my day-to-day project work.  You know what I’m talking about, “C’mon guys, this is the blocking and tackling stuff.”  Or, “What we need now is a Hail Mary before we have to go into to OT.”   I don’t really know how to do the “blocking and tackling stuff” and the only Hail Mary I know includes the words “pray for us sinners,” which I’m pretty sure is not what we’re talking about in IT projects.  I am not much of a sports follower, but I do have children, so I’m starting a new trend: I’m going to use prenatal care terms in my day-to-day project life.  You may have already heard this one: “Nine women can’t make a baby in one month.”  (If you aren’t familiar with this concept, see if you can find a copy of The Mythical Man-Month by Fred Brooks.  It’s an old reference, but you’ll get the point…)  Here’s my list:

  • When someone is trying to decide that the page exception they just uncovered in the app is a defect:  “You can’t be just a little-bit pregnant; of course it’s a defect.”
  • When features need to be put on hold or completely eliminated from scope:  “Is this modified or full bed-rest?”
  • When trying to decide if a particular change request needs extra funding:  “Will this be a natural labor or are we going to need an epidural?”
  • And my favorite—when the project is spiraling out-of-control:  “Is this real labor or are we just having Braxton Hicks?”

So what does that have to do with requirements management, anyway?  As a requirements analyst, I take pride in understanding the audience I’m writing and presenting for and customizing my approach accordingly.  Even the IIBA views this particular skill as an attribute of  the Requirements Management and Communication compentency.  I do this in the “official” work I do, but how well do I this with the people I speak to everyday?  My point here is that I need to make sure the words I use, even in my day-to-day conversations, are understood by all of my team members.

Let’s be real though—not everyone is going to understand the references I list here.  And, I know, many of the terms my colleagues use are so deeply ingrained in their repertoire that asking them to change would cause a stir.  I’m not looking for that, only that we need to pay attention to the words and metaphors we use.

I know what you’re thinking: this isn’t going to fix the sports analogy problem.  I’m pretty sure I can’t fix that in a single blog post.  What I can do, though, is admit my confusion when I don’t understand analogies and metaphors and ask for clarification, and hope that will empower others on the team to do the same.  Ultimately, as a champion of clarity, isn’t that what I am supposed to do?  (And, of course, if I can do that without sending the Project to Triage to be monitored, all the better!)

SOUND OFF:  Are you tired of cryptic metaphors?  How do you make sure everyone on your team hears the same thing?

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