“The Business” considered harmful

Draw back the curtain to reveal the real people behind it

Hugo Ferreira
3 min readJun 5, 2023
DALL·E AI generated photo of several silhouette shadows behind a curtain
DALL·E — “photo realistic several silhouette shadows behind a curtain”

Few corporate speak expressions annoy me in as much as these 2 words: 😬

“The business”

This is a pet peeve of mine, for sure. But beyond that, it’s important we stop covering decision makers behind “The Business” curtain.

There is no such entity called “The Business” in companies.

“The Business” isn’t a job function or role or group of people.

“The Business” is everyone in the company.

So what is happening in reality, behind “The Business” curtain?

It‘s quite frequent that “The Business” is shorthand for “I’m only doing what someone asked me”.

Quite often it means the request came through a chain of so many people, no one knows anymore who asked it and what for.

Behind this expression there’s always people: someone who wants something for a reason. They need a problem solved, an opportunity to explore, an experiment to try.

People are the link to context.

To be effective in our jobs, we must know who are the people at the source of a decision or request. It’s the only way to sidestep all the “broken telephone” effect that exists in any chain of requests.

Being able to ask clarifying questions to the source is essential to get an accurate context. And as we know, context is everything for the decisions that affect us and requests we’re asked to fulfil.

Next time someone says “The Business” asked, decided, demanded, etc. follow these 3 simple steps:

  1. Ask “Who was it that did that?”
  2. If you didn’t get a real person, repeat the question applied to that answer
  3. Continue as often as needed until you get to names of real people

Well, it’s actually only 1 step 🙂 — Keep asking who’s the person until generic groups or terms becomes actual people names.

It never ceases to surprise me how hard it is sometimes to get to the names of the people who are making some decisions. It gets worse the larger the company is.

Be prepared for the possibility of some interactions to become something like this:

X: “The Business” decided to use Foo for everything
Me: Who made that decision?
X: It was at the board level
Me: Who in the board was deciding it?
X: Oh, that was done in the steering committee
Me: And who’s part of the steering committee?
X: VPs, C-level and our main stakeholders
Me: Who are those stakeholders?
X: Jane from Bar and John from Baz
Me: And who from the VPs and C-level belongs in the committed?
X: VP of Tech and VP of Product, and now the CFO and CEO as well
Me: Ok, thanks [*sigh* I guess I can get those last titles from the org chart now]

Now we know who to ask for clarification on the rationale behind the Foo decision. I’d bet that decision more nuanced than the “use Foo for everything” you got at the start.

Why go through all this trouble?

Because context is everything
Because people are the link to context…

So, remember to always ask:

Who is “The Business”?



Hugo Ferreira

Tech leader. Software engineering. Generalist. Treble dad.