08 May 2011 A lesson in clear communication
I’m one of the worst culprits and I hate myself for it. Finding yourself wrapping up in pretentious management consultant speak is an occupational hazard. I wouldn’t talk about “leveraging my core competencies” or “disintermediating my financial supply chain” in an informal conversation with friends and family. And it would raise an eyebrow at home, to say the least, if I mentioned that we’d been “sweating our assets” at work. So why do I do it?
I shouldn’t be too cynical. Some of it is just plain, honest jargon. Every industry and every profession has it. To the uninitiated, it’s a confusing language but to the professional, it’s a succinct vocabulary – a set of abbreviations for a complex subject. A critical success factor does what it says on the tin just like a unique selling point does. But let’s be honest about this, management consultancy speak is 10% succinct business vocabulary and 90% complete bollocks!
There’s a serious point to all of this though. The reason why we all tend to use this kind of language – apart from the fact that we feel we have to in order to add an air of authority to what we say – is that we’re afraid to get to the point – we’re afraid to say it like it is – and, dare I say it, we’re afraid to manage.
I for one am partly amused by management consultancy speak but I’m also becoming less tolerant of it for precisely these reasons. We can have a joke about it but where it’s use conceals poor management we need stamp it out. If you have a manager in your organization that comes to you and says they want to develop a plan to redeploy human resources in an attempt to right size their department – make a right sizing decision on the spot.
If you need to fire people – fire them – and tell them why. This doesn’t mean being insensitive – most people would rather be fired for a reason they can understand than be right-sized for a reason they don’t.
Getting better at communication often means just telling it the way it is and there’s no better example of firm and succinct communication than that of O-Ren-Ishi in Kill Bill. No pussy footing around the issues – just delivering a clear and concise message. I love her style. If you’re not familiar with this scene, watch it (parental warning though) – and if you are familiar with it – watch it again. I never get tired of it.
How’s that for change management?