Office Speak: Industrialise (Industrialisation)

Sometimes words take on a meaning within a subculture that is different to the meaning in the general population.

Industrialise has a widely used meaning.

I live in the UK which is an industrialised nation, arguable it’s a post industrial country, but either way the meaning is the same and it’s the dictionary meaning:

Industrialise: develop industries in (a country or region) on a wide scale.

This meaning of the word is widely used and understandable.

To Industrialise is the process of creating Industry, the noun from which we get the verb is industry.

That’s not what it means in my Office Speak subculture 🙂

In Office Speak Industrialise is used for the process of taking something that is being developed through the various organisational processes that will allow it to be built in a repeatable way.

We need to industrialise the process for shoe lace tying.

We need to industrialise the way that we support light-sabre maker XI.

In my particular sector this use of the word feels like an overstatement. When you think about repeat-ability in the context of a word like industrialisation your perhaps imagining  run-rates like those of a car manufacturer or a mobile phone manufacturer – hundreds of thousands and millions of units. In our context you’d be completely wrong. I work in a segment of the IT business where repeating something a few thousands times would be regarded as a large run, doing something in the tens of thousands being massive.

So why do we use the word? I’m not sure I know, but I suspect it’s got something to do with one of the ways in which we use the word industrial. When we talk about something having an industrial design we tend to mean that it is robust, sturdy, reliable, those kind of a things. In that context industrial is the noun that we then turn into a verb to create the word industrialise, by which I think we mean something like:

Industrialise: To make robust, sturdy, reliable.

Repeat-ability is another, but smaller, part of the meaning.

I’ve always been fascinated by the genesis of words and their meaning in subcultures. Many businesses have a subculture of words that take on specific meanings within that organisation. In my own particular organisations we have existing words that take on new meanings, like industrialise, we have specific words that take on meanings for which there is already a commonly used word, we even have completely new words with new meanings. That’s the joy of communicating, you never quite know what you are saying.

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