Alicia Diamond

Actionable advice for passionate business builders

Actionable advice, tips, and musings from a 2x Chief of Staff & passionate business builder

The Company Vocabulary List

If you’ve been on a growing team, you likely experienced the wrath of Metcalfe’s Law firsthand:

the effect of a communication network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system (n2)

Inspired by Woody993 at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18635966

Inspired by Woody993 at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18635966

Basically, the more people you add the Slack, the more (potential) direct messages could be sent between users. We’ve all experienced this when we’ve joined bigger schools, or bigger parties, or bigger companies. Communication always becomes more complicated as teams grow.

There are more connection points and more opportunities for messages to get lost, diluted, and misinterpreted.

Meetings that used to be impromptu now require planning, and a room, and (shoot!) remembering all the proper attendees, and omg why can’t I find a time that works for everyone?!

So where can we start? Consistent vocabulary.

Given all of the growing pains that come with an expanding team, the loss of clarity and explosion of vocabulary is one of the most frustrating. My last two companies were acronym happy. You know the type: nothing is ever as simple as what the name suggests. It’s shorthand that often begins out of laziness or a personal joke that sticks. 

I believe that leaders should make a point of using consistent, well-defined internal language to describe efforts. Be precise in your language and discriminating before you use a new term. Think about the impact on your team when a term changes: is this something new? Am I out of the loop?

By all means, develop your own language. It reinforces company stories and jokes, which reinforce culture. But be consistent. 

  • Define terminology on internal pages, like Confluence or Basecamp.

  • Set up a Slackbot to answer common vocabulary questions such as “What does EPYC mean?” 

  • If you hear new terminology creeping into conversation, lead by example and ask the person to clarify what they’re talking about.

  • If you decide to formally rename something, announce it loudly and widely. Again, leverage your internal communication tools like Slack, Confluence, or Basecamp.

  • Explain terminology changes somewhere so that new hires can understand the history. 

Consistent, broadly understood terminology is a simple and powerful way to maintain team alignment and simplify internal communication.

What’s the craziest acronym you’ve had to learn at work? 

Mine was CWH, pronounced “Chewie”, as in “Chewbaca”. It stood for Chicago WareHouse. Yeah… you want to spell it CHW. Truly the worst! But, it stuck like a charm and whenever someone asked what it meant, we reinforced our founder’s obsession with Star Wars and general geekery. 

Alicia Diamond