In defense of management jargon

Core competency? Benchmark? Key issues? Sustainability?

Ask any manager and they will explain what these words mean. To the uninitiated it is buzzwords. To the literati, it is a modern day plight that will destroy the English language.

X wrote The Death of Language. Y wrote. Weaselwords. Hundreds and hundreds of pages devoted to slagging management-speak. Courses on Effective Business Writing will advise strongly against using technical jargon or made-up words. These courses, of course are always run by literary types, never business people an managers. (We are way too illiterate.)

Funny that. And invariably they will also tell us that of the 800,000 ordinary (non-technical words) in the Oxford English Dictionary, the average person only uses about 8,000: that is one percent of the available words. The implication of course, ‘we’ know many more. It is then followed by a joke that you should not use ‘pulchritude’ when the word ‘beautiful’ would do. Ha ha.

Their strategy? Encourage the business managers to use simple language, lest some of the key issues become obfuscated. That is, stop using management speak. No more outcome engineering or value-add solutions. No more xx or yy.

I wonder where these people were when the engineers coined terms nano-second and voltage. Or when the scientists stopped calling it a ‘rotten-egg gas’ and called it sulphur dioxide. Surely the computer geeks should never have been allowed to make up stupid words like spam or megabytes, not too mention asynchronous messaging hypertext.

The despicable jargon is simply the art of management becoming the science of management. And we need a new language. These weasel words are simply the evolution of the language being adapted to new concepts and stretched in a fast-changing world us managers face daily.

Sure, not all of us have mastered the ability to turn a deft phrase. I guess there are a few plumbers and surgeons out there who suffers from the same malady. (Oops, sorry, I meant disease.) Sometimes our sentences are clunky because we are not great writers. The vocabulary is hardly to blame.