When you’re working on a new project, how much time do you spend getting the structure, the details, the numbers right? And how long do you spend worrying about the name?
Well, it matters. The name is the first impression, the suit your project wears to work. There are subtle variations between what I think and feel if you tell me you’re proposing a project, a program, an initiative, a venture, a journey, a transformation or a process.
Look at this week’s fight about the term “reform”. There’s a nationwide referendum in May on changing the electoral system in the UK. Traditionally, this kind of change has been called “electoral reform”. But BBC guidelines to its reporters have banned them from using the phrase, stating that ‘reform’ “explicitly contains a definition of improvement”.
It has sparked a big row, with pro-reform campaigners pointing out the BBC’s inconsistency – its news reports use the word “reform” in other contexts all the time to describe changes to the health service and education system. But let’s also consider the success of American Republicans in rebranding “tax cuts” as “tax reform” to take the sharp blades out of the picture in our mind’s eye.
Outside political circles, this might seem a silly thing to get heated about. The trouble is that labels really matter. People need to understand and buy into change if it is going to be effective. The label frames the way we think and feel when we conceptualise the issue. With such small margins between success and failure, don’t neglect your project’s first impression.
Is the title of your presentation putting people off before you’ve even started?