Collaborating Using Whole Sentences

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - Lego style

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - Lego style

“There are two kinds of people in this world…”

That’s a line from an old Clint Eastwood movie and it sounds like the start of a corny joke, but bear with me and you’ll learn a bit about helping people think strategically about business and technology.

There are two kinds of people in your enterprise … Noun People and Verb People.

Noun People speak the language of Things.  Things like software and hardware. Applications, laptops, tablets, firewalls, protocols, routers, switches, phones, networks, portlets, databases, etc, etc.  Noun People are solution oriented.  They are typically passionate about supporting the organization and are eager to provide all the tools and infrastructure appropriate to the enterprise.  They know what it takes to support a business.  They can describe which gizmo does what, its total cost of ownership, how fast it runs and whether or not it can interface with the gadget.  Noun people are frequently in IT.

Noun People are Important and you can’t run your business without them.

Verb People speak the language of Actions.  Actions like manufacturing and selling.  Innovating, developing, motivating, purchasing, merging, planning, collaborating, analyzing, managing, etc, etc.  Verb people are results oriented.  They typically focus on moving the enterprise ever forward; to make it bigger, better, more successful.  They understand what it takes to run a business.  They know how to  turn ideas into actions, create treasure from trash and even sell balloons to porcupines.  Verb People are typically in “the business”.

Verb People are Important and you can’t run your business without them.

So, if you have some of each kind of person, then what’s the problem?  The problem is the communication gap.  Noun People don’t speak the language of  Actions and vice versa.  We’ve all seen it.  Look at your last set of business requirements for the big new software application you’re planning.  Do they really make sense?  Look at the new “field of dreams” collaboration suite that’s just been rolled out.  Whatever will you use it for? 

This concept does not shock or surprise many people.   Typically, I get the sage nodding of heads all around the table when I describe this - no matter which kind of person they are.  This is especially evident in the area of collaboration (enterprise social software, unified communications, business video, social media, etc).  Collaboration tools (nouns) have been deployed for many years now without clear connection to business imperatives (verbs).  Likewise, businesses have been desperately looking for ways to improve, accelerate, grow (verbs) without an appreciation for the capabilities, architectures, infrastructure (nouns) required to achieve their vision.  

So what’s the solution?  The trick? You must find someone who can craft whole sentences using the Verbs and the Nouns.   Perhaps this is you, perhaps it is someone outside your organization who has the tools and experience to do so.  But collaboration solutions must never be deployed without a clear business imperative (it’s lacking the verb).  Major business initiatives should never be started without a clear understanding of the opportunities for enhancing collaboration (it’s missing a noun). 

This is not as easy as it seems and I’ll tell you more about the process for making the connections in a later post.  For now, pay attention to the language in your planning and strategy meetings.  Are there any Verb People in the room?  Any Noun People?  If you have some of both, do they understand one another?  Are they even listening to one another? 

A good translator can transform the conversation.  How’s your grammar?

tin cans with broken string

"What we have here is a failure to communicate"

Quotes from:
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9 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Great article Mark. Verb folks are major in Business, but need to minor in IT. Noun folks are major in IT but need to minor in Business. It is one way to close the communication gap. Leadership is all about formulating the sentence and closing that communication gap.

    • Thanks for the feedback Kiran. This problem has become quite obvious to me since I’ve left IT and started consulting with customers. All too often we see the assumptions taking the place of reason in these conversations. From an IT perspective, this is critical to ensuring long term funding. From the business side, critical to ensuring resources properly utilized.

  2. [...] ‎”There are two kinds of people in your enterprise … Noun People and Verb People.” ~ Mark Eggleston Collaborating Using Whole Sentences « Controlled Falling [...]

  3. Great post, sets me thinking!

    • Mission accomplished! Thanks.

  4. Finally a description of the job I do!! I am the link between the noun people and their projects and the verb people and their action plans. The quesion is, what shall I call myself? Verb Engineer?. Noun Leader?

    • My experience is that there are very few people who understand the importance of this role. Fewer still who do it well. Love to hear more about your experiences.

  5. You didn’t say anything about expletive people, and we have all known a few of them!

    But seriously, good insights; thanks.

    • Love it! Although expletives can be verbs or nouns. Thanks for the comment.


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