Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for Management Speak

The A to Z challenge marches relentlessly on with the letter "M".

I hate management speak. If you're going to talk about a shovel, call it a shovel, not a "portable dirt placement tool."

I worked for large companies during my 50+ years working career. None of them could write and publish a memo without management speak. They all were consciously incapable of being honest in their communications. The more obtuse, the better.

I was a maverick when writing business letters and memos. I said what I meant. In easy, short sentences that anyone could understand -- even my managers. That means that on the rare occasion that I got drafted for some proposal activity, I was forever getting comments like "that's too specific" or "expand that paragraph out so that it is three pages long."

I gave presentations at conferences on bar codes for a couple of years. One compliment I received came from a gentleman who said, "I must have two dozen conference proceedings in my office. Your presentation is the only one in all of those that I ever read all the way through." Ah, that meant I succeeded. I wrote the paper to inform and educate, not to throw obscure terms out to prove how smart I was.

I turned down multiple opportunities to become a manager. First, my skill set is such that I function best in a support role. Second, I hate meetings -- they waste too much time and accomplish little due to management speak. And, third, I don't like to lie to people. You'll get an underling that comes to you and asks about the rumors of a layoff and asks if it is safe to buy that new car. Even though you know he's on the layoff list for next week, you'll have to smile and say, "No layoffs are planned."

There is one particular word that's used by management that sets my teeth on edge: synergy. It means two things working together to form a greater whole. Mathematically, that can be expressed as:

2 + 2 = 6.5

In practice what it really means is that management doesn't have a clue why they are buying the other company and have no other logical explanation, but they're going ahead with it anyway.

If you see synergy in some communication, put on your hard hat and flack jacket, run for the hills and take cover.


  1. It's like art speak or what I refer to as Educationese - cow hockies is a better word for it all.

  2. As Jaye said, it's all over education too! Drove me nuts to listen to it...and the acronyms! Don't get me started!

    1. Yeah, acronyms are a whole different barrel of monkeys. I spent most of my working life in the aerospace (NASA at KSC) and for defense companies. I think there is an unwritten rule that no sentence can be written without two acronyms.

  3. just LOVE this post - i'm hooked and now following