Sunday, 17 August 2008

Getting our ducks in a row

In a bid to talk about something other than my tent, I have been waffling with TLB about the merits or otherwise of management speak. A couple of days ago I overheard some suited monkey in a pub announce announce to his fellow primates that they needed to 'touch base regarding the leveraging of our new product'. I think what he was trying to say was that he and his colleagues should have a meeting about marketing but I cannot be sure.

Anyone who works in an office will have been subjected to similarly inane drivel and for some reason most people seem to object to the profusion of meaningless waffle within managerial circles. I personally think it is a good thing and wholeheartedly encourage anyone who wishes to adopt this bizarre vernacular to do so.

Nearly all professions have their own vocabulary. In the IT industry I am particularly exposed to the extremes of highly specialised language, entire conversations can be conducted in acronyms and industry relevant terms that to the outsider can sound like gobbledegook. I heard myself say the other day that we need to 'UAT the API of the CMS'. I am not going to even try to explain, suffice to say, some people out there will understand and I would not deign to bore those of you who don't. It is not just specific to IT though, all professions have their own acronyms, abbreviations and specialised lexicon. A Surrey flange may sound like something you could find staggering the streets of Guildford in a miniskirt but a plumber would know otherwise.

The problem with management is that when it comes down to it there are only so many ways you can talk about people and tasks. In order to avoid sounding boring one must talk instead of peopleware and meta priorities. There seems to be an overwhelmingly positive correlation between the lack of actual skills at a managers disposal and the amount of obfuscation required to distract everyone from the fact. It is for this reason that I believe management speak is a good thing, for it allows us to spot the frauds. In a room full of technical people, you can have absolute confidence in the fact that the person who is talking about strategic content and blue sky thinking is the one whose thinking should be completely disregarded.

I often like to counter with some unintelligible nonsense myself, like announcing that our creative soufflé is collapsing and that we should stop opening the oven, not solely to ridicule the management apes but also to ensure that we are all singing from the same hymn sheet.

1 comment:

Aurelius said...

I was looking for a ballpark figure as to the number of blue-sky, outside-the-box examples of management speak there are.

Of course, managers sometimes move the goalposts, making it difficult to bring such a thing to the table.

In an effort to achieve this objective, I felt being proactive not reactive was mission critical, and since there is no 'I' in team I explored my colleagues knowledge base and found that amongst our core competencies we have a few people who saw this as a clear deliverable.

Whilst I would normally expect them to be clearly client focused I presented this operational challenge as a win-win situation, incentivising them to
take it to the next level.

And you know what?... We couldn't think of a single one.

 
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