Where the Rubber Meets the Air

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Certain phrases that are part of the workplace are just too good not to use.   Certain phrases capture the essence of what’s going on in the organization so perfectly, that further explanation is never needed.  The best phrases don’t come out of the CEO’s office, or from consultants or off of the framed vision statement on the wall.  The best phrases come out of the bowels of the organization. Management may not even know they exist.

The most creative and cut-to-the-heart-of-the-matter phrases all seem to have something to do with getting things done.  Call it implementation, call it execution, call it program management or change management – the name doesn’t matter.  The lack of things getting done generates good phrases.

Here are four of my favorites, all from people who do real work.

  • Rotating bald tires – Or, wow, this is hard work but all this effort will go nowhere and nothing will change. When you rotate bald tires, you still have four bald tires.
  • Building our own coffin. This phrase means we are doing a lot of work and the result will be we are out of a job.  This phrase usually comes from project teams involved in cost cutting.
  • Same old horses, same old glue.  Or, the same people will always generate the same result.  Always applies when cost cutting means all the low paid people are eliminated but no one whose photo is on the org chart is.
  • And my favorite, “where the rubber meets the air”. Meaning the wheel never hits the ground – the opposite of “where the rubber meets the road”.  All the talk is good but nothing will ever get implemented.

Lots of other phrases circulate through a workplace but most are not suitable for publication.  With so much going on in the workplace, why does the lack of getting things done generate so much creativity in the catchphrase department?  The answer is simple – FRUSTRATION.  Nothing will make a team or an individual more frustrated than the sense of working on something that will never get implemented, that nothing will ever change.

Execution of a plan is the most difficult activity of any organization.  Strategies and plans can be copied.  Who cares?  Effective implementation is the secret sauce in any organization and requires discipline and making hard decisions.  It’s difficult because it requires changing behaviors – which most people don’t want to do.  It requires changing out people – it depends on which side of that change you are on, but most people don’t want to see change in this regard.  It also requires making difficult decisions that are by their nature tough to do.  Implementation requires courage, which can be hard to come by in some leadership ranks.

I do know that where there is effective implementation, phrases are not necessary because results don’t require phrases.  And people generally like their jobs more.

Be alert to the phrase du jour at work, it may tell you more than you think.

What phrase captures daily activity in your organization?

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