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Being John Glaser 12/12/08

December 11, 2008 News 6 Comments

Over the course of my 20-plus years as a CIO, I have developed a special vocabulary. Sometimes the English language just doesn’t have the right word or the right phrase to capture what I really want to say. Rather than risk being inarticulate or unclear, I make up new words or use existing words in a new way.

While this enables me to be clearer and really express what I want to express, the risk is that my colleagues won’t know what I am talking about. I thought that it would be useful to provide a glossary of Glaser-speak. You may decide to use some of these words yourself.

Duck Soup. The task we have to do will be easy and straightforward.

  • You: We have to put together an outline of the project.
  • Me: Duck soup.

Cakewalk: The task will be more than easy. We could do it in our sleep.

  • You: We have to attend the meeting but we don’t have to do or say anything.
  • Me: Cakewalk.

Non-trivial. The work that needs to be done is really, really complicated and difficult. There is a high probability that we are in for a gut-wrenching roller coaster ride.

  • You: We have to implement 27 major applications in one week.
  • Me: That will be non-trivial.

Boatload of trouble. A whole lot of trouble or bad news. Not your regular bad news. Some really, really bad news.

  • You: The payroll system is down and it looks like it will be down for a month.
  • Me: Sounds like a boatload of trouble.

How are we doing? We are in a boatload of trouble. Bad things have happened and we need to get out of here quickly. But I’m not sure what we have to do and I need to get your thoughts and ideas.

  • Me: How are we doing?
  • You: The data center has disappeared. We can’t find it. I think that we should run for the hills.

Gorbal 5000. A catch-all term used to describe the screwy technology that all vendors claim to have that will solve all problems that we might ever have. In addition to being a cure-all, the technology is very inexpensive. A myth. Brochure-ware.

  • You: The vendor claims to have some interesting new products that represent a major leap in information technology. If they gave Nobel Prizes in Computer Science, the vendor thinks that they would get one.
  • Me: Sounds like the Gorbal 5000.

Fat Chance. There is no way that that will happen. It is more likely that aliens will land today and take over the earth.

  • You: The vendor would like you to visit their headquarters to learn more about their exciting new technology, the Gorbal 5000. They want to know if you can come early and play golf with their CEO.
  • Me: Fat chance.

I look forward to the conversation. If I have anything to do about it, there is no way that we will ever talk again. I’d rather listen to fingernails scratching on a black board than listen to you again.

  • The vendor: How about your team and our team get together for a one day session to explore how the Gorbal 5000 can increase productivity and enhance patient care?
  • Me: I look forward to the conversation.

Fair enough. There are two uses for this term. One, you’ve been explaining something to me and you still feel the need to continue to explain it, but I get what you are trying to say, so you can stop explaining and move on. Second, you think my idea is a bad idea and you’ve told me, generally in a nice way, why it is a bad idea and now I get it. You’re right.

  • You: Talk. Talk. Talk. Talk. Talk. Talk. Talk. Talk. …
  • Me: Fair enough.


  • You: You’re wrong. You’re wrong. You’re wrong.
  • Me: Fair enough.

Right on. A pleasant, but minor surprise.

  • You: The meeting has been cancelled. You have a free hour.
  • Me: Right on.

Gotcha. I understand the issue or the problem and I know you’re looking for insight and wisdom but I don’t know what to say, so I’ll stall and hope that something comes to me.

  • You: We need to do something about world hunger and bringing lasting peace to us all.
  • Me: Gotcha

Terrific. There are two uses for this word. One is nice work, good news, I’m pleased. The other is yuck, bad news, go ahead and ruin my day.

  • You: The implementation has gone really well. The users are ecstatic.
  • Me: Terrific


  • You: The users are really mad. They are heading down the hall and they want to skin you alive.
  • Me: Terrific

Interesting. My initial reaction is that this is likely to be a very good idea. Or that the comment seems to be very insightful.

  • You: I’ve figured out a way to bypass that problem that we had talked about. I think it will save us a big headache.
  • Me: Interesting.

Very cool. A major league, exceptional idea. A deep, maybe profound insight into what we should do. Service-oriented architectures are an example.

  • You: We should do a service-oriented architecture.
  • Me: Very cool.

Correct. You have said something that is true. Or at least you have reached the same conclusion that I reached.

  • You: We should try to do this project well.
  • Me: Correct.

On the nose. After much discussion and perhaps going around and around, you have arrived at the right answer. I listened patiently until you got to where I wanted you to go.

  • You: Maybe this. Maybe that. Maybe something else. Maybe something other than something else. Hey, wait a minute, how about we try it this way.
  • Me: On the nose. 

Sometimes CIOs are accused of being unable to communicate with other members of the C-suite. The use of words and phrases such as above should solve that problem.


John Glaser is vice president and CIO at Partners HealthCare System. He describes himself as an "irregular regular contributor" to HIStalk.

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Currently there are "6 comments" on this Article:

  1. What about the brown button and the black button?

    Also, I have everyone in our shop putting lighting bolts and clouds on EVERYTHING…I just got a 10M project approved…and yes…I used a slide with a Lighting Bolt and a Cloud.

    Great tips…

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