Making Careful BA Language Choices

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We are delivering train-the-trainers sessions to one of our customers. In these sessions, we are training some of their senior Business Analysts (BAs) on how to give our Requirements Elicitation course to other BAs in their organization. Well, this week I was working with two people in Houston, two in London, and one in the Netherlands, and I was reminded that with global audiences we have to be careful with our language choices!

The course was originally developed with an American audience in mind. And for the most part, the course will work for global audiences as well. However, it seems we needed a few tweaks in the language on the slides and in the delivery. I was talking about how to deal with angry stakeholders and one of the steps is “Know when to bail”. When I wrote this and explained it, I meant, “know when to disengage from the conversation with the angry stakeholder in a non-rude fashion, by suggesting you will take it offline”. Well, one of the global participants from London had never heard the phrase “bail” in this context alone (he knew “bail out” but not just “bail”) and had to stop me to ask me to explain. The funny part was when the guy from the Netherlands chimed in to say he knew the phrase quite well, suggesting  it must be a British language thing, nothing how we were getting tripped up on a common language.

So to further complicate the issue, I went on to explain it with other phrasing and I said that in these difficult conversations with angry stakeholders, you made decide to “table it”.  Well, I was caught again. Apparently the phrase “table it” means two different things depending where you are. While in my case, I meant “to drop the topic for now and revisit later”, the phrase “table it” in other parts of the world means “talk about it now”. Can you imagine the confusion if you try to “table it” and half the group keeps talking about it while the other half tries to move on?

So this is just a fantastic reminder that you must be careful about your word choices when working with global stakeholders. Their English may be fantastic, but try not to use jargon so you can avoid frustrating them!

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