In the realm of business technology, and especially in Enterprise Architecture, people are prone to using impenetrable jargon and misusing common words and phrases. Specifically there is a tendency to use words and phrases that have been so overused and misapplied that their meaning has been lost.
Why is this a problem? Well, three reasons:
- If the meaning of a term is unclear, lost or ambiguous, then when we use it we can’t be sure that we that we are talking about the same thing as our audience is. This leads to miscommunication, wasted effort, misaligned expectations. The classic case of this occurring is when we appear to disagree of some matter, but it turns out that we agree but were just using the same word to mean different things.
- If terms have lost their meaning from overuse or abuse then we are in danger of losing sight of the important concept that they once signified.
- Sometimes if we don’t know what we mean by a concept I believe that we can miss the implications of what we are discussing. Sometimes we need precision in our discussions to make them truly effective, in these situations conceptual clarity helps us achieve that precision.
Situations like these call out for conceptual analysis – an uncovering of what we really mean by this term or concept, as well as what the implications of that meaning are for our discussions and decisions.
There is, however, one thing that I do think must be avoided in these sorts of discussions and that is pointless arguments about definitions – I’m more interested in exploring the underlying concepts and their implications than I am in coming up with a perfect dictionary definition, or – worse yet – engaging in the “my definition is better than yours” style of argument.
What I am intending to do in a series of posts is to look at these terms and try and cash them out into terms that are more meaningful, practical and with any luck measurable. I want to be able to say whether these terms describe things or situations that have measurable business impact.