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Merrill Lynch's Online Trading Effort Loses in the Name Game

With the long history of this code name, the company might as well have named it Waterloo.

Slowly, Merrill Lynch began to put the pieces together. ... In March, brokerage chief John "Launny" Steffens made an eight-hour presentation to Merrill's executive committee, providing the outlines of a new Internet strategy. The code name was Rolling Thunder. -- The Wall Street Journal, June 1

SAN FRANCISCO -- Any yuppie with an MBA can come up with a businessman plan. But what's an old-school

businessman

to do? If most of your career was during the Cold War, how do you make your mighty moves?

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With code names, of course! For an initiative to have the heft that might build a career, it must have a powerful code name. The presentation booklets need a muscular title. No "deal memo" -- that's for amateurs. You must have a forceful cover page, like "The Things We Think and Do Not Say: The Future of Our Business." An action plan, it must be "A Call To Action." You can't just move your lumbering business to a new model; it must roll in like thunder.

Damn thing about code names, though: You think you've hit on a winner, but it's already been used.