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Control Your Vocabulary

Worksheet - Control Your Vocabulary. Several spaces to write based on prompts: Words we say, words we don't say, requirements.

This worksheet (PDF) is the closing exercise in Chapter 4 of How to Make Sense of Any Mess

This exercise is built on an appreciation that words are an essential material that we use when we make things, especially with other people. 

Why is this Important?

By deciding the words we say and don’t say we are really defining the thing we are making in the process. I have seen words be the bottleneck on too many teams, this exercise aims to start important semantic debates about the meaning of the words behind or on the surface of your work. 

When to use this…

  • Anytime, but particularly when people start to exhibit signs of confusion about the meaning of terms or the understanding of concepts related to your work.
  • As a reckoning, when there is a major change afoot and you need to tighten the vision with a team

Level Ups, Bonus Points, Brownie Points, Nerd Snipes

  • Make a living, breathing document: I find the most value in a controlled vocabulary that sits as a messy record of things at various levels of “decided” — this allows a hub for conversations over time on teams around their vocabulary. 
  • Make it Visual: I have had such fun making pictograms for controlled vocabularies in the past, and I often find making use of a simple diagram (like a block diagram or a mind map) can be much more effective as a teaching tool then just a matrix like the above. So once you define your term verbally, think about visual models that might help relate those terms to one another.