Category: management theory

War on management speak

Dizzy thinks (as spotted by Mark Pack) has noticed that back home, Stockport council have declared war on jargon, trying to reduce instances of management buzzwords in their website. This is an excellent initiative, but I’m worried there is some confusion over what is being achieved.

It’s a good move, but not for the reasons most seem to think. Jargon is language specific to an area of life which can easily be substituted by more everyday English. Technical language that can’t easily be understood by a moderately intelligent person and can’t easily be replaced by as many or fewer words in plain English is not jargon- it’s just technical language. To be jargon, a term must be both unnecessary and difficult to understand.

All but one of the phrases that are being eliminated are not jargon, but management speak. These are buzz-words repeated parrot fashion that are almost, but not quite, totally meaningless. Buzz words do not make you difficult to understand, but they do add little to what you say and make you look unimaginative, and unable to express yourself properly. People often think buzzwords make them look intelligent and capable, when the opposite is the case. The barriers created by buzz-words are not a problem of understanding, but in that they put the user into a separate social group to the reader.

At university we were told in management classes to avoid both jargon and buzzwords. Unfortunately 15 years later and there are people who haven’t cottoned on to the fact that parroting impressive phrases does not make you any brighter.

Management is not the only place we have buzz-words, you may notice from time to time the media and political circles of this country will latch on to a key phrase of the moment and repeat it add nausium. Past examples have been spin and sleaze.
Please, repeating the phrase of the moment does not help the message get across, it just makes you look foolish. Let’s all follow Stockport’s lead and try and eliminate buzzwords, so we can make the world a more friendly and imaginative place.


Biscit’s laws of management

1. Confidence and slickness of presentation, particularly in interviews, is usually inversely proportional to intelect and ability.

A confident person is often just bluffing or parotting. One who hesitates and stammers is thinking about what he says.

OK, yes it is a gross generalisation, but it’s closer to the truth than what many appear to believe. Too many people confuse lack of confidence with lack of capability, and too few have the expertise to see past nerves and lack of confidence to the ability beneath.

Scouting and Business

A friend, lets call him Michael, has been suggesting that Scouting should be teaching skills more directly applicable to modern life, such as interview and CV techniques, and running small businesses. This to me goes against the spirit of Scouting.

We are not, anti-enterprise, we are just not directly educating the young people who come to us basically to have fun. Learning about CVs and interview skills is what Schools and Universities are for.

Recently, one of the other ASLs at my Scouts had the idea of a “Retail” badge. He told me that he submitted the badge to HQ and that he thought he was treated quite badly over it, but that’s another story. The idea was to get Scouts to study retail, as they would mostly be getting little jobs in shops anyway. George, I’m sad to say, misses the point of scouting here. Aside from the fact this duplicates the experience of the jobs they are bound to get anyway, the point of Scouting is not direct in the skills it teaches.

Another example is a Canadian Scouter, who got quite upset when I sought out silly cooking tricks like coathanger frying pans. According to this person, Scouting would be teaching real skills. In Canada where it is much easier to end up somewhere where you have to survive by your wits, it is also easier to loose sight of what you’re supposed to be achieving. Because if you think the main point of learning to cook on camp, is being able to cook on camp, you’re lost.

Scouting teaches young people how to interact, gives them experience of teamwork and leadership. It also, to allow myself to lapse into management speak, teaches them to be inventive, to think outside the box.

We don’t teach Scouts to read and write or indeed teach them how to swim? These are skills best taught elsewhere. From Scouting you get more than that. The ability to use and adapt skills in new circumstances and situations being just one of those things.