L’affaire est au point mort.
lah-fay ray oh pwaa MORE. Click below to hear this.*
The matter is at a standstill.
You’ve been trying to move this business forward for months, but nothing ever happens. Everybody seems to be waiting on somebody else. He needs to file his report, you can’t do anything without it. He needs her budget. She can’t do the budget. Where are last year’s figures? The finance office is in chaos with Anna on leave and Joe incompetent.
Management is encouraging the matter to go forward, because they really need to do something about Joe. Without that report, no one can make a decision about Joe. Poor Joe.
The thing is, the project isn’t dead, it’s just stalled. In French, it is au point mort. That means at the dead spot, and it has a very precise and elegant explanation. It is the sopt where the gears and all moving parts of a machine are positioned in such a way that they are not engaged with each other, and no power or energy is being transmitted from one part to another. In other words, the machine is in neutral.
It’s the same expression used for the gears of a car. The machine is, for the moment, dead. It can’t move or progress without action from something or someone outside the machine. In a car, that’s the driver making a conscious decision to go. In business, it might be an intervention from someone else–from upper management to the Board of Trustees to the outside consultant. In life itself, it may be a nudge from outside you: a pebble on your path, a poem in an open book lying on a table, perhaps even an angel.
*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file: