Being Modern: Management speak

By Robert Epstein
Sunday 23 October 2011 03:59

Let's run this topic up the flagpole and see who salutes it. Management speak, that office bête noire that reached its pompous zenith in the 1990s, has returned to prominence with a vengeance as the PM and his pals have really taken it (and Labour's annoying insistence on blue-sky thinking and stakeholder management) to the next level.

No political announcement is complete without a mission-critical statement that will incentivise X to rethink their core competencies and ensure they deliver a win-win situation. There's no such thing as problems any more – just challenges. Targets don't need to be reached, because we're headed for strategically planned, bleeding-edge milestones.

Going forward, let's touch base and get proactive about drilling down into this in a joined-up way. Let's push the envelope to extend our knowledge base and be catalysts for continuous improvement in the accountability and performance of this area. Let's take a holistic approach to ramping up progress on this issue on a vertical level while, of course, being outcome-focused. Let's take a helicopter view of the bigger picture and that way we'll achieve our vision while staying true to our core values.

AAARRRGGGHHH!!! What the hell are they talking about? It's less an argot, more a series of catchphrases. Yet adherents claim that business speak gives them the tools they need to make themselves understood in a professional manner; that powerful metaphors such as "shoot the puppy" really drive home their message. Sure they do – to those who know what you're on about. And what about phrases such as "thinking outside the box"? Most of us know that it means to think creatively – but how big is this box? Don't we need parameters rather than simplistic slogans, clear visions rather than obfuscation?

What's most extraordinary is that the 120 per centers of The Apprentice didn't kill this stuff off. It's noticeable that this guff has largely been absent from the current series. And if that bunch of middle-managers aren't doing it, what excuse do MPs have?

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