If It Ain’t Written, It Ain’t

I have done a lot of work in Texas over the last 17 years . Besides the warm weather, one of the things I’ve enjoyed about Texas is picking up some of their slang expressions. Things like;

  • Y’all – used in place of “you all” or “you guys”. This can also take other forms like “all y’all” just in case you need to make a plural even more of a plural!
  • Fixin’ tuh’ – this means “about to”
  • Don’t kick the sleepin’ dog – this means that there is a sensitive issue and its not worth bringing it up and getting everyone worked up about it
  • Ain’t – used in place of “are not” or “isn’t”
  • Big hat, no cattle – this means “all talk and no action”

However, the most important slang expression I learned in Texas has huge business implications;

“If it ain’t written, it ain’t”

This basically means that the days of doing business with a verbal agreement or a handshake are over. All agreements need to be in writing. If the agreement is not in writing then there is no agreement.

Today’s business world is moving so fast, and is so complex, and there is so much information passing in front of each of us each day that what we agree to in meetings or conversations can be easily forgotten or misinterpreted. It is critical to the success of our projects and our businesses that we document whatever is verbally agreed upon and get alignment between the involved parties before we take action. This sounds really simple but I have personally seen and continually hear of many situations that have cost companies millions of dollars because they proceeded on a verbal agreement without getting it in writing and signed off by the involved parties.

This alignment and written agreement does not have to be a onerous process. An email exchange can suffice for simple agreements (emails are legally binding documents) and meeting minutes that are signed by the involved parties are also a good tool for this. You can get more formal with a standard change request and change authorization process or even more formal with a contract or contract amendment.

Don’t fall victim to the chilling words “that is not what I agreed to.” Get all your agreements in writing and remember that if it ain’t written, it ain’t.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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