Just In Time -- Manufacturers are From Mars, Politicians are From Venus

Dec. 16, 2007
Elected officials speak a much different language than manufacturers when it comes to basic concepts and ideas.

I've always felt that politicians really don't understand those of us who live and work outside of the Beltway, and now I realize exactly why that is. It turns out that they're actually trained to think and speak differently from you and me, so that common words and phrases translate differently when spoken by a politician.

Recently I came into possession of the Unofficial Glossary of Standard Political Terminology (not available in any stores; in fact, most people will deny it even exists). It's no longer a mystery why the people in Washington don't grasp the nuances of the manufacturing industry's issues and concerns; when you say one thing, they think you're talking about something else entirely.

In the interests of helping manufacturers learn to speak Washingtonese (since there's virtually no chance that politicians will learn to speak like manufacturers), below is a sampling of some terms that you only thought you knew what they mean:

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See Chain Reactions: David Blanchard's blog about supply chain management.
  • Seniority
  • Spending
  • Spin
  • Subsidies
  • Sycophants

Asset turnover: Refers to the surrender of gifts or other possessions to avoid scandal and/or legal repercussions.

Automation: Undesirable activity resulting in the loss of jobs; see also Productivity.

Continuous Improvement: An oxymoron. By design, things never improve in Washington; if they did, we'd be out of work.

Discrete: Maintaining an aura of plausible deniability; in extreme cases, pleading the Fifth Amendment.

JIT: Just Increase Taxes, the standard solution to all Washington problems.

Lean: Refers to the direction of one's voting record, either to the left or to the right.

Metrics: Refers to approval ratings, which should be emphasized and publicized when you're up in the polls, and derided as insignificant/outdated/biased when down in the polls.

MRO: Monetary Rationale for Offshoring.

On-time Delivery: Ensuring that your opponent receives a subpoena right before the primaries.

Productivity: Frequently cited justification for the loss of jobs; see also Automation.

Quick Changeover: The ability to instantly switch positions on an issue, depending on which way the wind is blowing, e.g., "I used to be in favor of it, till I voted against it."

Theory of Restraints: When being led before photographers prior to arraignment, it's always best to have an article of clothing draped strategically over the handcuffs.

Waste: The amount of money your opponent recommends be spent on his/her pet project.

Zero Defects: Describes the record of a candidate who is successfully elected -- and remember, "electability" is the end game of all political pursuits.

David Blanchard is IW's editor-in-chief. He is based in Cleveland. Also see Chain Reactions: David Blanchard's blog about supply chain management.

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