Buzzword of the Week: Boiling the Ocean

For much of my career, I’ve been a project manager in addition to whatever title I might have held in my company. This week’s buzzword is about one of the dangers people can face when trying to complete a project in an efficient fashion.

According to Investopedia, Boiling the Ocean means undertaking an impossible task or project or to make a task or project unnecessarily difficult. Boiling the ocean generally means to go overboard.

For example, a manager might be accused of trying to boil the ocean if he directed his employees to prepare a presentation for a business client based in Houston, Texas, and he insisted that the employees prepare versions of the presentation in Spanish, French, Japanese, Chinese and Italian, just in case someone at the presentation spoke a different language when most likely they would all speak English.

Another example of trying to boil the ocean might be a six-month-old startup company trying to get venture capital funding and go public by the end of the year. Such a goal might seem ambitious to the company’s founder, but in reality, setting such an unrealistic goal is likely to lead to frustration and disappointment for everyone involved.


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