March 19, 2019

Cautionary tale from reader Brian Bimschleger

Sent by Jonathan Stark on March 20th, 2019

Fellow reader Brian Bimschleger replied to yesterday’s anti-jargon message with this cautionary tale (shared with permission):

Hi Jonathan, Great - but unfortunate - story. Even when people do know the same word, the word sometimes creates confusion. For example, our user experience design agency recently worked with a startup to design and build the front end for the startup’s web application. During contract negotiations, the client and our team agreed that our agency would deliver a developed style guide. The startup’s lead developer was primarily focused on the backend, and was head-nodding as we described the deliverable of a style guide. As we progressed in the project, we built the style guide. Hooray! It turns out, our client’s developer had a different understanding of what a “style guide” includes. So we had progressed about two months into the project, operating off of what we had assumed it was a common understanding of the term, only to discover that the client and I had misalignment from Day 1. The project ended up OK in the end, and we still have a good relationship with the client. However, it resulted in several additional, easily-avoidable weeks of work to resolve the misalignment. Concerning your post, “12 gauge” can mean different things to different people (thickness of a coin vs. shotgun shell). I’ve learned that - even when people recognize the same terms - I still double-check for detailed understanding. Brian

Thanks for sharing, Brian! Double-checking to make sure you and the client are on the same page (i.e., dispelling all assumptions) is always good advice.

I would add this:

If you focus on outcomes instead of deliverables, alignment on the exact nature of the deliverables becomes unimportant. More on this tomorrow! Stay tuned :-)