Microspeak: pivot


A great word to use at Microsoft to make it sound like you're one of the cool insiders is pivot. Mostly because the meaning of the word varies from place to place, so you can use it to mean whatever you like while still sounding hip and jargony.

In Windows Phone, the term pivot is a technical term which refers to a type of control that lets users switch easily from page to page. The term is used metonymically to mean the pages themselves.

In the Calendar, on the To-Do pivot, you can press and hold on a to-do item and select postpone a day.

In Excel, the term pivot refers to a type of table or chart that summarizes data.

In Windows Live Search (as it was known back then), the term pivot referred to the category selectors at the top of the page (Images, Videos, News, etc.)

But once you go beyond specific technical definitions, things get vague quickly.

The most general sense of the term is just that a pivot is way of visualizing data. No summarization required.

Old and busted New hotness
Calendar view Pivot by time
Group by type Pivot by type

Use the new hotness to gain instant credibility.

Here are some other citations which seem to be even more vague.

We will focus v-teams along client/server pivots across workloads.

Is there a way to write a program that does Q whenever Z happens? Another pivot on this question would be to add this as a feature in the XYZ product.

Over time, we will adjust this diagram to pivot by process rather than organizational unit, but for the moment, the organizational unit serves as a rough proxy for process.

The new model will be a significant change to the organization, and it will take focused effort to reorient the organization to this alignment. Initially in this new pivot, there may be challenges in learning new roles, accountabilities and responsibilities from role to role in the overall project structure.

That last one is today's winner for muddled management-speak.

When in doubt, toss in the word pivot. Nobody will know what you mean, but that's okay, because you don't know what it means either. It just sounds cool.

Comments (12)
  1. SmittyBoy says:

    To quote  http://www.linkedin.com/…/20121103152100-13561499-the-high-cost-of-cheap-buzzwords

    "May the swiftest pivitors streamline their alignment strategies to optimize the trajectories of their paradigm shifts!"

    Or as I like to paraphrase:

    Sit on it and Pivot !

  2. jk says:

    pivots are presumably necessary for spin

  3. JDP says:

    this is Raymond's most pivotal post to date.

  4. Translations:

    We will focus  v-teams along client/server pivots across workloads.

    We're going to have people work on "client" stuff or "server" stuff instead of their regular jobs.

    Is there a way to write a program that does Q whenever Z happens? Another pivot on this question would be to add this as a feature in the XYZ product.

    I want the XYZ product to do Q whenever Z happens. By the way, is that technically possible?

    Over time, we will adjust this diagram to pivot by process rather than organizational unit, but for the moment, the organizational unit serves as a rough proxy for process.

    I was too lazy to make a new diagram that shows what people will actually do, so I just used an already existing chart that shows who everybody's boss is.

    The new model will be a significant change to the organization, and it will take focused effort to reorient the organization to this alignment. Initially in this new pivot, there may be challenges in learning new roles, accountabilities and responsibilities from role to role in the overall project structure.

    Everybody's going to do something different than they were doing before, and some people won't be any good at their new jobs.

  5. Silly says:

    That last example demonstrates good leverage of the word 'pivot'.

  6. Larry Hosken says:

    I'm just stopping by to see if people yell at you for using "metonymically". I slipped one into a wiki page last week but was worried that the readers would throw rocks at me.

  7. Matt says:

    Or to pivot your analysis, one could metonymically state that Redmond often restructures their phrases to leverage grammatical constructs of limited utility transliterated into grammatical sites where existing lexical paradigms are the norm.

    (Microsoft often uses useless words where existing common phrases would be more normal).

  8. Neil says:

    Those translations need to be a featured comment.

  9. Francis says:

    The last quote sounds like it could be using "pivot" in the sense it's used in in the book "The Lean Startup"

  10. David Walker says:

    "The new model will be a significant change to the organization, and it will take focused effort to reorient the organization to this alignment. Initially in this new pivot, there may be challenges in learning new roles, accountabilities and responsibilities from role to role in the overall project structure."

    Sounds like "pivot" here just means "change of direction", which is the word's original meaning anyway (to me).  Using "pivot" here sounds strange, but of course the whole sentence sounds like marketing-speak.

  11. Ben Voigt says:

    Most of these seem to be using "pivot" to mean "grouped", which derives from "pivot table".

    The original concept that a pivot table allows you to look at the data from different perspectives (as if it were an object being physically rotated and viewed from different sides, which is correctly described by "pivot") seems to be totally lost.  This does yield a new set of groupings, but does NOT mean that "pivot" is synonymous with "group".

  12. xpclient says:

    The Shell team does not get how pivotal it is for the Explorer auto sorting pivot to be turned off. :P

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