The Strategic Comms Centre of Excellence

Management Speak

I reached out to my boss first thing this morning.  I had to square the circle about one of our strategic imperatives.  Fortunately he cascaded the relevant information.  He had the helicopter view, I was too busy searching for low hanging fruit.

If there is one thing that is guaranteed to set me off it is management babble.  I get the burning urge to pull off my socks and stuff them in people’s faces.  It isn’t professional of me, but I don’t think I am alone.

Management Speak

Why do we do it?

No matter how much we loathe management speak, we all still use it.  There are several theories why, some a little harsher than others:

1. To sell something

We need to convince people that we have novel ideas.  The easiest way to show that we are leading edge, bleeding edge, (have something new), is to dress it up with words.

2. To sweeten the message

Our consciences prefer it if we tell others that we have to rationalise our footprint, or streamline and downsize. That is better than admitting that we are sacking people.  Language makes reality nicer, at least for the messenger.

3. To hide our ineptitude

It is a lot easier to tell people to move fast and break things or synchronise and synergise, than tell them anything instructive.  If people don’t know what you are talking about you can’t be proven wrong.

4. To look impressive

Why admit that you are a middle manager in a slightly below average corporation when you can be the Global Director of Best Practice?  It looks fantastic on your business card.  Unfortunately just saying it doesn’t make it so.

5. To join the in-group

If your Chief executive is hell-bent on capitalising on volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity then leveraging the V.U.C.A. (search me) will get you a long way.

6. To sound clever

I am always a little sceptical of anybody who wants to undertake some forward planning.  Have you ever seen a backward plan? Why use one word when you impress with your vocabulary and use two?

We are all guilty

I use plenty of jargon on this blog.  Maybe I am a thought leader (up myself).  I’d like to think I am referring to key concepts (important ideas).  Either way it is hard not to drink the Kool-Ade (succumb to peer pressure).

A small lesson in clarity

In 2009 Domino’s Pizza started a turnaround.  They didn’t claim they were leveraging their core competence of customer delight.  They published criticism from their customers that:

  • “The crust tastes like cardboard”
  • “The sauce tastes like ketchup”
  • “This is an imitation of pizza”

People only speak that plainly if they are serious.  Dominoes then set about improving their product.  Since then their share price has risen from $8.60 to $68.00.

If you can’t speak clearly, what hope is there that you are thinking clearly?

P.S.  This is also true for slides

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Image by Michael Verhoef

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