Monday, July 23, 2012

Business Speak

When blogging as a member of the ASQ Influential Voices team I begin by saying ASQ CEO Paul Borawski in his blog A View from the Q asked the staying true to form...Paul asks: Do you speak the “language of business”? How important is it, in your experience?

Let's start with the language of business...
I've been hearing this discussion about the language of business since I started as a quality professional back in the days of enlightenment...the 1980's.  I'm sure the discussion was not new then.  So why are we still trying to encourage our quality professionals to speak this languauge...shouldn't this be motherhood and apple pie by now?  The reason we need to keep selling the business speak is that our Engineering schools are still failing us.  As an Engineering student I was required to take a course called Engineering Economics.  It was a senior year requirement and basically taught about break-even points.  No other required course in my Engineering program discussed Business, Money, Costs, Expenses, Income, Revenue, or any other language of business.  I did take Accounting as an elective so I was a bit ahead of the curve.  Still neither course mentioned touched on Business speak...Failure STEM!

How important is it in my experience?
Try to solicit funding in your organization for simple quality tools like QMS software, new test equipment, SPC software, or even new furniture without a cost justification, an ROI or details of all the expenses associated with training and installation and see how far you get.  Even preparing a simple expense report for business travel requires a simple understanding of business speak.  Again, without basic training in the language of business, we as Quality professionals will fail...yet another failure of STEM, in my opinion.

Sure, Engineering students have among the heaviest course loads in any college or university yet we fail to teach them what they really need to know for success...change the requirements for Engineering programs to include Business 101, Business Law and basic Accounting 101.  Once this is done there will be no need for this discussion of speaking the language of business.


  1. I think rather than adding new courses it could be woven into industrial engineer, project management type content. I agree with you, that educating engineers should include some basic understanding of what business people thinking and terms.

    This might help with some of the manager speak :-) (for programmers but still)

    And really most business speak is very simple. No engineer should really have trouble with Google and whatever oddness suits want to through at them :-) Integrating into the course-load I think is valuable not so much to get the terms understood as to integrate the business philosophy into engineering (in practice most engineering is not some billionaire saying I want a robot I can play basketball with. There are no constraints, just get me my robot. Normally the business constraints are nearly as important as the engineering constraints.

  2. True. In fact, in the business world, innovation is one of the key principles to live by. Businesses should always try to introduce new ideas and projects to keep up with the changing of times. So it pays to gamble a little on new projects, such as good quality tools for the organization.

    Rigoberto Stokes

  3. I agree with Rigoberto here. In order for a business to thrive, it must keep up with the technological changes. The prevailing trend in business is to take advantage of the substantial benefits of good quality tools. It would be bad if your business gets left behind by your competitors, especially when you know that you can do something about it.

    @Carlene Schnitzer