Microspeak: ROB and Office Hours


At a team meeting, I was introduced to yet another acronym: ROB. This is spelled out rather than pronounced as a word. (So maybe it's not really an acronym? Whatever.)

It was never actually stated in the meeting, presumably because the underlying assumption from the speaker was that everybody already was familiar with the term,¹ but the letters ROB stand for Rhythm of business. (Sometimes spelled RoB.)

As employed in the meeting, the rhythm of business referred to the cadence of various meetings. For example, "Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9am to 10am is a staff meeting. Every Tuesday from 2pm to 5pm we have placemat reviews." And so on.

The calendar showing the weekly schedule is known as the ROB Calendar.

One item that appeared in the ROB Calendar was called Office Hours. This is a block of time reserved on the schedule where you can stop by to discuss whatever is on your mind. The team leaders promise to be in their offices during their Office Hours and will not schedule a meeting during this time.

Many teams also have their own Office Hours. This benefits both the team and the people who are looking for help:

  1. For people outside the team, it's a time when you know that you can come by and get help. This removes the hassle of finding somebody on the team and then finding time on their schedule.
  2. For people inside the team, it focuses all the distractions into a specific block of time. This means that instead of people randomly interrupting you, people interrupt you during a prearranged period of time.

Searching through Microsoft internal documents, I found some uses of ROB on its own, but I couldn't figure out what it meant. In finance circles, there were pages simply titled ROB which contained a bunch of charts showing how well things were going compared to the budget and compared to how they went last year. Not sure what that's about. Maybe someone out there can fill me in.

¹ Note that this doesn't mean that everybody in the audience was in fact familiar with the term. The speaker merely assumed that they were.

Comments (20)
  1. Chris B says:

    “In finance circles, there were pages simply titled ROB which contained a bunch of charts showing how well things were going compared to the budget and compared to how they went last year.”

    Reach Of Budget?

  2. andy says:

    I’ve seen ROB get used for Return on Business for financials – maybe thats the budget

  3. Rick C says:

    “One item that appeared in the ROB Calendar was called Office Hours. This is a block of time reserved on the schedule where you can stop by to discuss whatever is on your mind. The team leaders promise to be in their offices during their Office Hours and will not schedule a meeting during this time.”

    College professors use (or did, when I was in college) the same term in the same way.

    1. James says:

      I think that’s the point: Microsoft adopted “office hours” *from* university practice.

  4. George says:

    I always thought that acronyms could be spoken or spelt out… people seem to say SEEQUL or S.Q.L…. (cue the flames!!! :)

    1. Wombat says:

      An acronym is an initialism that is pronounced as a word. Classic examples are RADAR, SCUBA, and LASER, all of which are no longer spelled out – heck, they are rarely spelled in all-caps now. You see radar, scuba, and laser. There are even people who are not aware that these were all acronyms.

      I pronounce SATA as a word (usually as “Sah-tah”).

      I have heard that one way to tell where someone is from is how they pronounce CICS – if they spell is out, they are from the US; if they say “kicks”, then they are from the UK or Australia :-)

      Do you spell out RAM? Or do you say “ram” (like a male sheep)? Do you refer to “Buy-Oss” or do you spell out BIOS?

      I’d be inclined to spell out uncommon initialisms, if only to avoid confusion (“rob” could be confusing if Robert attended the meeting, or if you were demanding money!).

      1. morlamweb says:

        I use whatever has the fewest syllables; thus, SQL = sequel, and RAM = ram, and SCSI = scuzzy. As for “rhythm of business”, were I forced to use that dreadful phrase, I’d break with my guideline and go with “are ohh bee”, because I work with several guys named Rob…

      2. DWalker07 says:

        If people say anything about CICS, it means they are from an older generation. :-)

      3. StanT says:

        So where do you stand on TLA ?

  5. Rich says:

    I would have just walked out. James Brown has rhythm. Meetings at Microsoft do not.

    1. D-Coder says:

      Where is the upvote button???

    2. David Totzke says:

      Rhythm Or Blues.

  6. Myria says:

    Better than “Robotic Operating Buddy”.

  7. Sam says:

    For your financial example showing how much money was being spent relative to the budget: Rate of Burn.

  8. cheong00 says:

    I’m in favor of spelling the word out.

    Yesterday, when I talk with my colleagues at lunch and hear they talking about “sa-ta”, I paused for a moment and then realized they’re talking about SATA.

    Talking about this reminds me that Michael Kaplan once mentioned his dialog with his friend in airport regarding “BOM”.
    http://archives.miloush.net/michkap/archive/2007/12/11/6726647.html

    1. waleri says:

      You’re in a plane and calling a friend, starting the conversation by saying “Hi, Jack”…

  9. These are obscure Microspeak aren’t half bad. They’re interesting for me, especially because of my linguistics minor. But I am more curious about the history of those widespread Microspeak. For example, how Microsoft came to call the volume without the bootloader “boot volume” and why it is referring to the volume without systemroot “system volume”. Or how on earth did Microsoft ditch “i386” for the inaccurate “x86”? Why did it never adopt the official “IA-32” term? And how it came to the wrong conclusion that x64 is not x86? (In reality, the first x64 CPU only had four additional instructions over its 32-bit predecessor.)

    1. cheong00 says:

      Btw, “x64” is wrong in this sense either. it’s “x86-64” and the Microsoft’s choice to name this is “amd64”.

      I think understand the reason for Microsoft to not use “i386” because I have the confusion when choosing the right package from RPMfind, when some of the distro packaged their software using i586 and the others using i386. That’s confusing to me.

      1. I’ve never seen Microsoft using “amd64” extensively. Maybe a couple of obscure references to it.

  10. contextfree says:

    I was actually on a Microsoft team that was officially called the Rhythm of Business team for a while and I still never entirely understood why it was called that …

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