Once any group of people spend enough time together they start to develop a common language that is specific to that group. It happens in marriage, where a couple develops a sort of marital shorthand based on their shared experiences, and it happens in teams for the same reason.

My team at work has begun to develop our own set of phrases and expressions. I call this teamglish. So for example, if someone is getting stressed out over something they can’t control, “it’s time for ice cream.” We make regular team excursions to get ice cream.

If a project has been a real pain, it’s been “not so kind”. The best part about Teamglish is that everyone can participate. “Not so kind” came from one of our overseas contractors, but it describes exactly the project that brought it into existence.

Married couples develop shared language after being together for a while. For example, if my wife wants to remind me to stop and ask for directions, or at least turn on the GPS, she only has to say “Chaska” after the time I got hopelessly lost taking a shortcut to Shakopee for the Minnesota Renaissance Festival and ended up 25 miles away in Chaska. If I want to remind her that we have an agreed to spending limit that we have to stay under unless we talk to each other first, all I have to do is say “Kitchenaid” I’m guessing if you know anything about kitchen appliances, you know what that was in reference to.

On Star Trek: The Next Generation, there was an episode where Capt. Picard ends up stranded on a planet with an alien that only speaks in metaphors. That must be what it’s like to join a team that has begun to create a teamglish.

There’s an old joke about an old man who is getting comfortable on his first day at the retirement home. He’s invited to join some of the other residents for coffee. As they sit there, different people shout out numbers, and people laugh. One guy shouts out a number, and everybody almost falls out of their chairs laughing.

After this goes on for a while, he asks somebody to explain.

“Well, we’ve all been here awhile, and we realized we all knew the same jokes. So rather than tell them over and over again, we just gave them numbers and shout out the numbers instead.”

“So why did you laugh so hard when the bald headed guy shouted out a number?”

“We’d never heard that one before.”

Well, I better let you get back to work. I hear people shouting out numbers, and I have a new one to try out on the group. Hey guys! 47!


Surprise! You’ve Got Gorillas in Your Project!

I’ve decided that gathering requirements is lot like this video:

Did you catch what you were supposed to?

Projects are often full of invisible gorillas. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a few gorilla tracks during the process to let you know that they are there. Other times, you won’t see the gorillas until they charge out of the bushes and start terrorizing innocent bystanders.

The problem is that often the business doesn’t know they have a gorilla infestation. Oh, sure they can tell you all about the poo flinging monkeys up in the trees, but the gorillas are all invisible until someone slips on a banana peel and ends up breaking a hip.

It’s hard to spot gorillas in the wild. They seem to either wear stealth fur, or are just very good at hiding behind things. And like the gorilla in the video, if you’re busy trying to figure out what kind of trees are in the jungle, they become very hard to spot.

You can stand back a bit, and try to get a better overview of the problem, but then you have to be careful not to fall off a cliff because you were too busy watching for gorillas to pay attention to your surroundings.

The thing you don’t want to do is waste time looking for snakes in the underbrush too. They might be hiding there, but unless they are going to bite you, they’re probably safe to ignore.

I better let you get back to work. We just moved a system to production and we have a bad case of baboons, and they’re EVERYWHERE!


Welcome to the Workplace Humorist. This site grew out of the Linked In posts I write twice a week. I plan to put longer versions of what I post there and other posts that just occur to me, but don’t fit my usual schedule of posting on Tuesdays and Thursdays.