Monday, November 26, 2007

The Essays 2: Death to Buzzwords

What I would Change?
Fantastic, an ideal opportunity to have a whinging rant at the world about any pet hates I have. Or for some blue sky thinking.

Oh I did it. I used a business buzzword. Which is what I really, really want to change.

I hate them. All of them. Ball park figure - I am English, What is a ball park anyway? Lowest hanging fruit – unless you work in an orchard this makes sense how? Thinking out of the box – I was not aware I was in one.

What is wrong with approximate figure rather than ball park figure? What is wrong with saying, easiest goal rather than lowest hanging fruit? Why not say – we need to try and be original.

Like any jargon or patois, management speak is a language design to include and exclude certain people. Should you not like using phrases such as ‘kicked into the long grass’ or ‘Elephant Traps’ then you are not a dynamic, go ahead, sharp and active person, capable of ‘pushing the envelope’ or developing ‘synergies across the corporate universe’. If you do one half of your organisation thinks you are the latter, the rest think you are either a) demented b) a toadying servile gimp c) both.

It has got so bad that people write books on it. There are competitions for Business Word bingo, and even British Airways has a feature in its in-flight magazine with the latest business words and what they mean.

Clichéd, hackneyed and tired they are used by Management and management wannabes to sound like they know what they are doing. And before you know it they are everywhere. Even ministers and politicians are using them.

So instead of using language to communicate, clearly conveying thoughts and ideas, it becomes a tool to divide and to be obstructive.

Is there anything more disheartening than sitting through a senior management briefing as they reel of a series of these phrases, occasionally linked together with the odd ‘we need to’ or ‘we must use’? By about the third phrase you are already beginning to nod off or are drawing fantastically complicated doodles on the note pad in front of you.

Because that is the real point. These phrases do not work. A simile is only good if cogent, relevant to the parties hearing it and usually fairly original. ‘Lowest hanging fruit’ sounds great to a bunch of fruit farmers when talking about getting the easiest thing done first. To people working on helping the homeless it does not really work.

They also, over time, the get baggage as saying them reminds people of other times they were used. Lowest hanging fruit often means going for the quick and easy, in a hurry, so we can all walk away from the project pretending it worked, rather than it actually achieving what it was meant to do.

Similarly, efficiency. We hear that world and we all think;- job cuts, pay cuts no Christmas party, no more biscuits at meetings. The actually meaning of efficiency;- the accomplishment of or ability to accomplish a job with a minimum expenditure of time and effort, is obviously what everybody should strive for. Who wants to put more effort in than is necessary? To be inefficient, is wasteful.

But in Management speak, ‘tightening our belts’, ‘effective case management ', ‘non-duplicative/reduces duplication’ are phrases always is used in favour of just coming straight out with ‘we are going to cut jobs’. Of course if you did say that some one would ask why. If you use enough buzzwords then no actually listens.

And this is the true reason for it existing, its raison d'être. Using management speech allows you to say that you have spoken to people but you have used so many buzzwords no one actually understands what you have told them. The old way of keeping the masses in place was to use other languages – like French above. Now we use buzz words, to baffle, bamboozle and befuddle.

Where as a simile or phrase was originally intended to shed light on a matter, now they shroud it in ‘lingo’.

Can you see the policy? Not for all the phrases such as capacity building, system change awareness and coordinated delivery.

The Plain English Campaign has the right idea. Our bosses, politicians and leaders have to stop using gobbledygook. Is it any wonder no-one real knows what they are doing? They should say what they mean and no longer hide behind trite clichés.

The Essays 1 :What I would change - Consumerism

(the Financial Times (its a newspaper) is running an essay competition about "what I would change". So I tried out writing some essays. One went in, if I win I get a suit. But against the readership of the FT I feel possibly I little outgunned. The others, I am shoving here.)

It would be very tempting to go for an obvious problem here. What would I change? – no more wars, no more poverty, no more diseases, no more global warming.

I think this is trying to change the symptoms of the problem rather than the illness itself.

So I would change consumerism. Because the way we consume, is what is causing most of the problems

Consumerism works though. Greed is good. Look where it has gotten us, with sky scrapers, aeroplanes and digital watches.

I would argue that the world is built on commerce. I think there is a different between commerce and consumerism. It is one thing to buy and sell goods and services, and another to constantly have to buy things.

The problem with constantly having to buy things to maintain a society is that it is ultimately the snake that eats itself.

And consumerism is not human nature. The use it and throw it away goes against the grain for many of us – that is why our homes and offices are full of old stuff.

Seriously, right now, I challenge you to go through your house and find nothing redundant or old you have kept just in case you might need it. You probably have. An old mobile phone, an old sweater and old pair of curtains.

These items have all been replaced, but not because they are broken – usually. They have been replaced because we live in a consumer society. We have to buy, buy, buy. Get that bargain, the latest item, the In Thing.
An example. Most people change their mobile phone every six months. Most people do not use any of the new features on their new phone, or do anything different with it. Most people text or make phone calls with their phone – something possible with a model of six years ago.

Whilst it is fantastic that we now have a phone that can show you videos of Kylie Minogue, locate the nearest pub with GPS mapping and let you go on MySpace, who actually does this? Or actually wants to do this?
Most of us get a new phone as it was the latest thing. We were sold it, rather than seeking it. And we are sold a new one in six months. All the effort to make that product and it has a life of six months. And the only real reason we change it is that, we have been sold the new one.

Magnify this with cars, washing machines, clothes and all the other stuff we buy and suddenly you can see the pattern.

We change for fashion or for the sake of change. And this model needs to be maintained – there are now hundreds of factories and millions of people working making all these things and selling them all. This is why certain items no longer seem repairable. We no longer make things to last, but make things in the certain knowledge that it does not have to last, cannot last, as we need it to be replaced, as they want to sell you a new one. And just to make sure it is redundant they make new ones better, faster, sleeker and cooler.

And it is not as if this new stuff makes us happy. Usually, just as we get comfortable with a new car or new phone is when we change it.

More and more of your income, is spent on things other than shelter and food. So there is less and less money to be spent on all the problems that really matter. Rather than spending the earth’s resources on useful, needed things:- green energy, medicine, affordable housing, we waste it with consumerism.

Please recycle away, but if you changed your car every six years rather than every three would that not be better? Maybe stick with the same washing machine rather than getting a new one with the new kitchen? Do you really need yet another cashmere jumper?

This is all the change that is needed. Value you what you have, buy what you want, not what you are told to want. Allow human nature and market forces to work with this. Buy a product that will last and keep using it. Buy it because you will use it – by all means buy luxuries if you will enjoy them. Nothing is a waste if it is used and enjoyed. But just to buy because you can costs so much more than currency.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Autumnal Pictures

This was the Eden project in September. (camera phone Samsung D900i 3 megapixel)

This was outside the office today:
(G600 5 Megapixel camera - focus not fantastic.)