Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Expensive Sentences by Jack Quarles




A few years ago I joined a company that had just been rescued from the brink of collapse. Operations, product, and staff had to be ramped up. It was a tedious and confusing time orchestrating change. The sentence that I heard nearly every day washed over me at first in my newness to the team. Then, it quickly annoyed me and I understood one reason that the company down turned in the first place. The words? “That’s how we’ve always done it here”. Hmmm. Those words explained everything.

How many times have you heard these common phrases in the past few months?

“We need it yesterday”
“We’re too swamped to deal with that now”
“We trust them”
“The customer is always right”

These my friends are “expensive sentences”. They can cost your company time, money, and resources. These sentences are so common that we believe them without further thought and too often nod in agreement. These words may impact egos, represent lost opportunities, limit dialog, and can set up barriers between departments. We are all so busy (or so we tell everyone) and projects move so fast that we fail to step back and look at things from a fresh perspective.

We need to halt expensive sentences. As teams, we need to figure out how to identify these rascals. Next, we need to question them and discover any problems that they may represent. As a result we may be able to right size our traditional assumptions and show teams how to rethink obstacles and outcomes.

Jack Quarles is a veteran of the world of status quo and vagueness. As a consultant, he’s heard every expensive sentence there is. He’s lived and witnessed too many companies falling into the sentence trap. Jack responded by bringing us the book Expensive Sentences – Debunking the Common Myths that Derail Decisions and Sabotage Success. Expensive Sentences is a must read for anyone who works with teams, budgets, or vendors of any size. By looking beneath the surface of each sentence, we learn that we may have more options, can form better relationships, and can conserve money and resources.

Jack shares 3 primary expensive sentences which include “stuck” messages, “special” slogans, and “scarce” lines. After identifying a sentence he leads us down the path to rejecting or debunking the myths and then offers us insight into how to discuss the sentences with teams to bring about constructive dialog and turn these words upside down.

As projects progress we often find ourselves stuck and not sure how to proceed. Too many people fear starting over for a variety of reasons so arms are thrown up in the air and the words “it’s too late to turn back now” are muttered. We find ourselves stuck and know resources have already been allocated, so how do we get unstuck?

“Special” messages muttered include “we’re different” or “we trust them”. These are often said with pride as if they are a get out of jail card and can justify decisions or business relationships. Too often we hang our hat on these phrases and ignore what is in front of us.

So many companies are working with scarce resources. This can cause misguided decisions that may bare a heavy cost down the road. Sentences like “we can’t afford to let him go” or “we can probably do that ourselves” should be warning signs. How many times do leaders preach “the customer is always right”? This sentence can become very expensive and dent a company’s reputation. Every customer is not right for us and we should only serve those that make a business case for our success.

You can probably think of more sentences that cost time and money. As a consumer how many times have you heard “this price is only good for today” or “it was on sale”. These words should always set off an alarm.

Expensive Sentences not only identifies, shares, and debunk myths, it offers ideas and strategies that you can grab onto to share with your team. Jack offers alternative responses to some of these sentences that you can throw back to your team for discussion. Here are some gems that Jack Quarles offers in each chapter:

  • Practical, real life stories and personal experiences from the trenches of actual companies
  • Responses that can be used against expensive sentences
  • Team conversation topics
  • Actual exercises that you can discuss or role play with your people
  • Additional tools and templates to implement


Perhaps you never realized just how easy you have fell victim to “expensive sentences”. They float around like coffee in a majority of our companies and we become numb to them. How many times have you sat in a meeting and heard the expression “the customer is always right” and let it wash over you? Have you ever really stopped to examine if it is true or a myth? Perhaps it’s time that you start questioning more and accepting fewer expensive sentences. If you are ready to stand up to myths and dig for greater efficiency, stronger relationships, and fewer expenses, you need to pick up Jack Quarles book Expensive Sentences to bring change.