Can You Define that for Me?

A few weeks ago I attended Drift’s HYPERGROWTH conference. There were several quality learnings but I wanted to highlight one that’s been on my mind a lot. Here we go:

Photo by Edho Pratama on Unsplash

Definition Alignment

Last week I was working with two agency (creative + development) teams on behalf of a B2B service provider in the financial industry. We’re in the process of implementing a few new lead generation technologies that support its business goals.

The engagement has been going a little slower than expected. Thinking through it, I realized a significant mistake I made over the last two weeks. I didn’t align our “trade” definitions.

The technical lead was using the word “strategy” with a completely different meaning than I define it. This caused confusion and frustration. Finally, on a prep call before our planning meeting, when he used the word “strategy” in a sentence, I asked him to please tell me what he means by that word. I asked him to define it for us on the call so we knew his definition. Once we learned how he defined the word, we could align. Since this call, the team’s velocity has increased and the client has gone from frustrated to excited.

The importance of this small but crucial activity (of aligning definitions) was confirmed yesterday at HYPERGROWTH.

One of the speakers, Molly Graham, talked about this very thing as a key factor for surviving scale in business. She’s led teams at Facebook, Google and others. She says it like this, “Be skeptical of words with more than one syllable.” She went on to say any words with more than one syllable need to be verified. If someone says the word “manager”, you should ask them, how they define it.

If you work with a team and one of these following words is mentioned, ask the person to define it. This will save you time and create more unity. Here are a few of the words on my list.

  • Strategy
  • Product manager
  • Marketing
  • Planning
  • Design
  • Content strategy
  • Leadership
  • Growth
  • Culture
  • Value
  • Values
  • KPI
  • User experience
  • User interface
  • Information architecture

What I’m working on next is documenting a living glossary for every engagement or product team so everyone can reference how we define certain words as a team.

What words are on your list?


Originally published on David Horne and Notes from the Field. NFTF is a bi-weekly newsletter for people interested in the creative process, product development and collaboration. You should give it a try if you’re into that sort of thing!