May 2024 From the President’s Keyboard: National Buzzword Prevention Month

Every month, one or more events are observed. In May, we observe Arthritis Awareness Month (I am aware, trust me), Better Sleep Month, National Walking Month, and National Asparagus Month, among many others. I am lobbying to add yet one more observance for May: National Buzzword Prevention Month.

Why? In my time as a plumbing designer, I’ve sat through countless meetings. Most of the time, the meetings are productive. The organizer has a good agenda, and we stick to the agenda, express our ideas, and end with clear goals. However, I also admit to being in a meeting or two that didn’t quite hold my attention. I may have even dozed off in a meeting. If you’d like a tip to catch me doing that, here you go: Make me endure a meeting where everyone is using buzzwords. The instant those start flowing is the same instant I start tuning out.

You’ve probably been in one of those project meetings. Let’s go to that conference room now, somewhere, anywhere…

A Buzzy Meeting

Like many meetings, this one was recorded. The following is the transcript, with my own mental musings in parentheses.

The project manager begins:

We’re happy to have the whole team here to kick off this project. (Not a bad start there.) As we all know, both of our companies have gone through recent right-sizing exercises, so we’re behind before we even start. That means we have to get boots on the ground yesterday to show the client that we are moving the needle on this. (That good start is disintegrating.)

Having said that (ouch, that one is the worst), I do think this team has the special synergy it takes to get things back on track. I want to step back and look at this from a 30,000-foot view first. The owner has given us a hard stop at the end of the month for a GMP set. When you look at their programming requirements and compare those to their budget price point, you have to wonder what Kool-Aid they’re drinking. Yes, it’s a municipal office building, but they want a bleeding edge municipal office building, with bells and whistles that no other municipality has. (Is it me, or is it getting a little stuffy in here?)

Meeting that schedule is going to be tough. It means most of us will be wearing many hats (Mr. PM, you’re losing me quickly. The only hat I see you wearing has a picture of a donkey on it), but it is what it is. (Is there a more vacuous phrase?) Sure, there are lots of moving parts here, especially since the owner moved the goalposts on us. I’m looking around the room and I can see the rockstar in each of you. (We’re playing rockstars now? Put me down for Pete Townshend. I feel like smashing something.) It may feel as though we’re herding cats now, but I know we can get this done.

We can’t afford any false starts with this deadline looming. If you get started and the metrics are not showing positively, you have to pivot. (As Ross would say, pi-VOT.) Start with the low-hanging fruit, then drill down and get back on track. Before you know it, you’ll be crushing it. (This buzzword-laden pep talk is crushing me.)

The owner wants that “G” in GMP—a guarantee.  Smoke and mirrors won’t do it. A guesstimate just won’t pass the smell test; it will only become a dumpster fire. (I’m a fire protection engineer; where there’s smoke, there is smell.)

Having said that (again??), l hope no one is having a hard time wrapping your head around this. Let’s do this. We can take it offline for now. Let me ask each of you to curate any questions, concerns, or pain points you have. Ping me on my email with that. I’ll sort through those, and we can circle back first thing Monday. (ZZZZZZ, ZZZZZZ, huh? Monday? What? Is it Monday already?)

Full disclosure, the above happens to illustrate my own personal most annoying buzzwords. You may not agree with my list. Hey, you may happen to use some of them occasionally. Don’t take offense. I’m just trying to put a smile on your face the next time you’re in one of those meetings.

I have gone far afield here, so let’s get back to ASPE business.

A Busy Time for ASPE Chapters

It is election season for most ASPE Chapters. Make sure you get to this month’s meeting and cast your vote for your Chapter Officers. It is your privilege as an ASPE member. If you are a Chapter Officer, don’t forget to input your incoming officer roster on the ASPE website. Sign in and go to the annual report system in the Chapter Officers Resource Center. Rosters should be uploaded by May 31. While you’re logged in, get a head start on your annual report to prevent a scramble to complete them by the June 30 deadline.

Next month, Chapters will be gathering for the Region Meetings. We’re returning to the standard format for the meetings this year; each Region will conduct its own meeting. Region 1 meets June 14–16 in Washington, D.C. Region 2 will meet the same weekend in Dayton, Ohio. The remaining three Regions meet a week earlier, June 7–9. Region 3 will meet at sea on a cruise out of Fort Lauderdale. Region 4 will meet in Phoenix, and Region 5’s meeting is in Tulsa. Happy travels to all who attend. Arrive with your ideas to share with your fellow attendees.

A New TV Star?

I interrupt this article with a late-breaking newsflash. The following image was captured from the screen credits of the TV series Blue Bloods. It seems that ASPE’s esteemed Executive Director/CEO was tapped to co-star in an episode of the long-running police drama. Our Staff is now working to confirm the source of this story.

That brings me to the close of another ASPE Pipeline contribution. Thanks to all of you for stopping by to read this, and I’ll have more to report next month.

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