Microspeak: planful

Raymond Chen

Every year, Microsoft invites its employees to fill out a poll which asks questions regarding all sorts of things. One of the things Microsoft employees are asked to evaluate is whether they think that their vice president is acting planfully. The tricky part about that question is that nobody knows exactly what the word planfully means. Merriam-Webster defines planful as “full of plans : RESOURCEFUL, SCHEMING.” Is that what they’re asking us? Whether our vice president is resourceful and scheming? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? The OED, on the other hand, defines it as “Full or rich in plans; characterized by planning; organized, systematic.” It’s not clear whether this means that the person goes into a situation with a plan ahead of time, or that once they get into a situation, they develop a plan for getting out. (Maybe both?) I caught a vice president using the word planful during a meeting, so I raised my hand and asked, “What does planful mean?” (Most people don’t have the nerve to raise their hand during a meeting and ask, “Um, what does that word mean?”) The vice president replied, “Actually, I don’t think it’s a real word. I think [name of a senior manager] made it up.” I followed up: “Well, in that case, why are we asked to evaluate you every year on whether your actions are planful? How can we answer a question that uses a made-up word nobody knows the definition of?” Obligatory xpclient example: “Was it a planful decision to introduce the auto-sorting problem?”

Reminder: Microspeak is not merely terms unique to Microsoft, but also terms used at Microsoft more often than in general.


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