Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Is Corporate Speak Invading Your IT Department? 490

Posted by Cliff
from the attack-of-a-different-language dept.
Worse than Political Correctness asks: "With several years of system administration under my belt, I am moving toward a slightly different role at my company. I am going from a straight system administration role to more of a high-level systems architect for a mid-sized company. There have been several promotions in our department recently, and use of this slang is growing faster than a Dave Chappell bit. Right now, I feel like unless one studies and masters the use of these pretentious buzzwords and phrases, he/she will be run over by people with worse ideas but a nicer-sounding delivery. Is corporate speak a necessary evil? "
"I have noticed that as I deal more and more with upper management, selling them on products and direction, as well as with hardware/software vendors, the dreaded corporate speak slang is becoming part of my daily life. No longer is there more work to fill an already full plate, now there are 'opportunities for growth'. There are no company layoffs, there are 'realignments'. Difficult people are merely referred to as 'more challenging' than others. I dislike this non-speak as much as any person bred from a technical background. However, in order to match my new colleagues in the give and take of business life, phrases like 'functions', 'deliverables', and 'value-add' are finding their way into my vocabulary."

Is this just something one has to cope with in order to climb the corporate ladder? If you've found yourself in this position, what things did you do to cope?
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Is Corporate Speak Invading Your IT Department?

Comments Filter:
  • by Ckwop (707653) * <Simon.Johnson@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @04:32PM (#15108545) Homepage

    I feel like unless one studies and masters the use of these pretentious buzzwords and phrases, he/she will be run over by people with worse ideas but a nicer-sounding delivery. Is corporate speak a necessary evil?

    No it is not, in fact, it should be resisted at all costs. Corporate speak is the opposite of language. Language is used between people to discuss ideas and express their emotions to each other. Corporate speak is used for precisely the opposite, to cloud ideas behind a vineer of self assumed intellect. Often coporate speak can be decomposed in to concepts so simple that they're essentially obvious.

    An example from one of my previous rants on this topic: "You can use the leviathan forces of attention and enthusiasm that are swirling around Web 2.0 these days as a powerful enabler to make something important and exciting happen in your organization."

    This is a fairly typical management-speak sentence but what does this actually mean? The sentence essentially boils down to a simple statement: You can use new technology as an opportunity to improve the operation of your business. I think most would agree this is an obvious, uninteresting statement and this is precisely the point I'm trying to make. People who use this language are trying to sell you something that's obvious; to sell the emperor his own clothes. If somebody can't make their point in plain english then they likely don't have a point that's worth hearing at all.

    So how do you fight it? I find the following techniques work:

    1. Ask them to explain what each term means. Example: What is Web 2.0 anyway? I haven't seen a new W3C standard called Web 2.0.
    2. Repeat what they just said in English. Rather than agreeing with what they said get them to agree to your formulation of the statement instead.
    3. If your in a position of power, if anybody submits a proposal to you using flowery terms, get them to revise their language. Tell them why you think clear language is important.

    I love our language and I love the mutual heritage shared across the many countries that speak it. Work with me to remove this cancer from our workplaces because our language is part of who we are. We simply can not allow something so abhorent to become part of our definition.

    Simon.

    • by thewiz (24994) * on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @04:44PM (#15108675)
      Corporate speak is basically the same type of "Rah-Rah" speech you here at Amway/Mary Kay/etc conventions. It's just for pumping up peoples emotions rather than conveying useful information.
      • Mod parent up. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @05:00PM (#15108819)
        Corporate speak is basically the same type of "Rah-Rah" speech you here at Amway/Mary Kay/etc conventions. It's just for pumping up peoples emotions rather than conveying useful information.
        Bingo!

        When you listen to two people chattering away in corp-speak, all they're doing is trying to convince each other and/or themselves how great they are or this option is or whatever.

        Sometimes it is used to pretend that the problems aren't really problems, or that they aren't as bad as they really are.

        Finally, it is used to assign blame for failure (althought "blame" and "failure" are not the words used).

        A. You can talk about exciting opportunities to align the company with industry leading visionaries ...

        B. Or you can say "it will cost $5,000 and take 2 people 3 months to implement and increase our sales by $2 million a year".

        When you don't have "B", you talk "A".

        It's all about selling, inside your company, outside your company, your project, yourself, your soul, your loyalty, you ideas, your lies, your co-workers down the river.

        Corp-speak is what they use when they don't have anything else and they need to persuade themselves and others.
        • Re:Mod parent up. (Score:3, Insightful)

          by lrichardson (220639)
          Two other things regarding corp-speak.

          First and foremost, virtually every group develops its own language of obfuscation. It identifies who is in the group (and understands it), and who isn't. Which becomes a self-reinforcing form of validation. The unfortunate side-effect of that is the tendency of people in a given group to discount anyone who doesn't speak the lingo.

          Second, corp-speak is intentionally vague and general. If something goes wrong, and the person who f*!@ed up points the finger at yo

          • I disagree. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by TheLink (130905) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @03:10AM (#15111798) Journal
            There is a big difference between field/industry specific "technical" jargon and buzzwords. The former is NOT obfuscation at all.

            Myocardial Infarction has a fairly specific meaning, and is very useful for _concisely_ conveying that meaning to medics. Whereas saying someone has a heart problem isn't specific enough.

            Same goes when you are saying a benchmark is an OLAP benchmark and another is an OLTP benchmark to some IT guy.

            Whereas when those people say something like "leveraging disintermediation paradigms" they are usually using a lot to say very little.

            I wouldn't even say it's the difference between info compression and info decompression, because often with business buzzwords, there is very little info.

            To me it's more like these people are expected to open their mouths and move them. But they know the more they actually say, the more they'd get in trouble (either because they don't really know much, or because they don't want to be pinned down on what they say later on), so they have to talk and say nothing much. Same for printed material - they have to fill column inches of a PR release or press interview.

            There's a significant difference between saying someone has Chronic Myeloid Leukemia, vs Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

            Whereas AFAIK there is very little difference in practice between:
            "envisioneer compelling synergies" and "architect impactful initiatives".

            Everyone with sense just watches what the person saying that sort of stuff actually _does_ after that. e.g. who gets sacked, who gets promoted, who gets dead-ended, and what policies change.

            And none of that might actually be related to what was said.
            • precision (Score:3, Funny)

              by raygundan (16760)
              There's a significant difference between saying someone has Chronic Myeloid Leukemia, vs Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

              Around here, we refer to both of those as "Opportunities for Synergistic Patient-Doctor Care Interaction."

              Precision is critical. Nonsense-crap like this accomplishes nothing except to hide the actual facts.
              • by dkf (304284)

                There's a significant difference between saying someone has Chronic Myeloid Leukemia, vs Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

                Around here, we refer to both of those as "Opportunities for Synergistic Patient-Doctor Care Interaction."

                Surely you actually mean "Opportunities to Optimize the Synergistic Stakeholder Interrelation Interaction Index"? If you're going to spout this sort of rubbish, remember that it is important that nobody should have any idea what you're talking about since you're doing it to cover up the f

        • Re:Mod parent up. (Score:3, Interesting)

          by anothy (83176)
          you've just illustrated exactly how most engineers just don't get what's going on here. to start:

          ...all they're doing is trying to convince each other and/or themselves how great they are or this option is or whatever.

          um, yeah. and convincing people that some option is worthwhile isn't a useful goal? sure, it's not the only goal, and people (especially technical people) who can't effectively communicate on in other ways as well - like investigation, reporting information, and so on - are missing a vital par

      • 'Corporate speak is basically the same type of "Rah-Rah" speech'

        "Corporate speak" in technical companies is often due to the speaker not having much understanding of the technology, and not wanting to learn.

        See this comment posted later in this story to test a company's credibility online [slashdot.org].

        I'm surprised that no one has mentioned "Bullsh**t Bingo". There is a link to it at the bottom of that comment.

        --
        Before, Saddam got Iraq oil profits & paid part to kill Iraqis. Now a few Americans share Iraq oil profits, & U.S. citizens pay to kill Iraqis. Improvement?
      • But it's not all rah rah. One of the words mentioned in the question, deliverable, is something that IT forgets about and is why many projects never meet deadlines or actually get finished. I cannot begin to tell you how many projects I see floundering because the developers don't know that they have to deliver something.
      • by Dystopian Rebel (714995) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @08:29PM (#15110132) Journal
        I'm glad you pinged Slashdot about this messaging challenge so we could touch base and send a heads up. This kind of meme is gaining mind-share. The metrics are showing more than just a blip, it's a sea-change!

        Moving forward, I think it's clear that we need to leverage our wins and make them part of the overall story. I know that we can wrestle this problem to the ground and dominate several emerging ecosystems if we prioritise and deliver best-practices through the channel. Execution is key.

        I really need your front-end alignment on this! Can you get your people on board?
      • Corporate speak is basically the same type of "Rah-Rah" speech you here at Amway/Mary Kay/etc conventions.

        That's for damned sure! I attended the LinuxWorld Expo in Boston last week and - unlike previous years - it was actually quite a challenge to find anyone willing (or able) to speak in any real detail. Indeed, the reason for such a phenomenon was quite clear: the exposition floor was crawling with company representatives from PR and Marketing, and knowledgeble technicians were, on the whole, those

    • by timster (32400) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @04:49PM (#15108712)
      Language is used between people to discuss ideas and express their emotions to each other. Corporate speak is used for precisely the opposite, to cloud ideas behind a vineer of self assumed intellect.

      The problem is that the veneer is an important part of one of society's Big Lies: that people know what they are doing. The truth is that most people, even in technical fields, have no clue what they are doing and never will. Given our economic structure it is necessary to employ these people lest society collapse.

      This is most true the higher up the corporate ladder you go. An average executive could go on and on about their qualifications, but nothing they succeed at is actually hard and most of what they fail at is actually easy. How many of you believe that you could have done a better job of running HP than Carly? Personally, I think most of you are right.

      For those of you who DO know what you're doing, understand that when people talk in corporatespeak, they are trying to believe that they have skills. There's no way to win by talking corporatespeak back, as it's cleverly designed to prevent people with skills from standing out.

      I remain without a solution to the problem that corporatespeak squashes all of my great ideas, but it has occurred to me that possibly I don't know what I'm doing either, so maybe it is for the best.
      • by AuMatar (183847) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @05:28PM (#15109057)
        Having worked at HP under Carly- I *know* most of them are right. It takes a special kind of incompetence to cut stock prices in half, destroy profitable divisions (calculators), bribe investors to go along with your plans (the bank of germany changed from a anti-merger to a pro-merger vote 15 minutes before the election- coinciding with a 1 billion dollar revolving loan from them), sink employee morale to all time lows, freeze raises for 4 years, have no real bonuses for 4 years (while talking about how great the numbers were), and blame it all on the employees not delivering to her vision. Oh, and have the market cap of the company go up *4 billion dollars* on the day you're fired.

        What?!?! No, I'm not bitter. I was one of the lucky ones- I got offered voluntary severance in the program the interim CEO put into effect. I consider the 5 months severance pay compensation for 4 years without a raise.
    • by sexyrexy (793497) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @04:50PM (#15108728)
      No it is not, in fact, it should be resisted at all costs. Corporate speak is the opposite of language.

      This is not always true. Corporate speak can be used to obfuscate, confuse, impress, overwhelm, or it can simply be a particular lexicon. Just like legalese can be used to frustrate or to clarify in a way no other mode of language can.

      What if the roles were reversed? Suppose the poster is a business major who has been thrust into the IT/S division of his company, asking us business folk if he should have to learn these ridiculous technical terms in order to communicate with the people he has to deal with every day. Your advice in that situation translates to: Hell no! Fight those socially inept geeks who try to confuse the real issue by loading up on technical terms and all that garbage. Whenever a network administrator submits his network health analysis report, hand it right back to him and tell him to use plain English. We'll not be having all this "TCP/IP" garbage. What the hell does that even mean, anyway? Why can't you use an easy word we all understand, like "traffic"?

      The language of business means real things to the people who deal with it, just like technical terms mean real things to others. You make the mistake of assuming all lexicons outside your own are devoid of meaning because you don't know the meaning.
      • Corporate speak is the domain of middle managers. In my experience, no one with any authority or power uses terms like "C-Level" "Mission Critical" etc. You will also hear a lot of business journalists (who of course have never worked in business) use those types of terms.
        My suggestion- pull out one of the studies about how 80% of corporations (the higher ups) say communication is a huge problem... And then speak like a normal person. Note how "scalability" means something completely different to an IT guy
        • by plover (150551) *
          Actually, we use "mission critical", but only because we mean it. If our software were to fail on a large scale, it would be bad for our company. Redundant data paths, communications paths and backup databases help, but our application has to run even when completely offline.

          I don't know if your mythical business communications classes exist anymore. I haven't seen enough clearly written communications lately to believe such advice was ever given!

          I've recently read two really good books about corpora

      • by sirket (60694) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @05:08PM (#15108872)
        No tech I know of wants to utter the letters/words TCP/IP around a management type. We know it won't end well so we don't go there in the first place. Tell us what you want in plain english and we will tell you if we can deliver it, the costs, and the time frame. If there are particular technical reasons that we can't make it work then we will tell you that. We can't help it if you ask for the technical reasons and then you completely fail to understand when we explain them to you.

        -sirket
      • by Theatetus (521747) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @05:29PM (#15109064) Journal
        What if the roles were reversed? Suppose the poster is a business major who has been thrust into the IT/S division of his company, asking us business folk if he should have to learn these ridiculous technical terms in order to communicate with the people he has to deal with every day. Your advice in that situation translates to: Hell no! Fight those socially inept geeks who try to confuse the real issue by loading up on technical terms and all that garbage.

        Rubbish.

        If someone doesn't know what TCP/IP means or what a CNAME record is, I can direct him to appropriate RFCs that define them.

        Now, I wouldn't actually direct an MBA to an RFC, because his eyes would glaze over about the time he got to "this memo has unlimited distribution." But what matters is that I can direct him to such a document, because such a document exists. Tech-speak is done with well-defined terms that have standardized meaning, and it is used to clarify how we talk to each other.

        If you can point me to a document or documents standardizing terms like "Web 2.0", "enterprise", "solution", "mission-critical", "partner", etc., then I will admit my criticism of corporate speak is wrong. However, I don't think you will be able to, because those documents don't exist. Because these words' meanings are not standardized. They mean to the speaker what he imagines he means, and they mean to the listener what he imagines he hears. That, I think, is what business types don't understand when they compare themselves to techs: what we say means something, because we had to learn something objective, verifiable, and repeatable to get where we are, while they didn't.

        • Note: I am an engineer and refuse to use corporate speak at any level. I will translate and use the english-variant at any meeting. I passed out randomized buzzword bingo sheets at a meeting with our client. And won.

          That said, your comment has me a little confused:

          Web 2.0
          Dead on -- Buzzword. Gots ta' go.

          Enterprise
          Besides the USS variant, when I used to work IT, "Enterprise" meant anything over 10,000 users. it was assumed that at that level, you needed to have something that had that kind of load in m
          • by jschrod (172610) <jschrod AT acm DOT org> on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @07:55PM (#15109986) Homepage
            Mission-Critical
            Buzzword. Use "Urgent" "Immediate attention" etc.
            At those IT shops where I do consulting, the terms "mission-critical", "business important", or "business foundation" are defined very precisely in the Service Level Agreements, as categories of systems with defined availability demands, defined maximum outage times, and defined RTO/RPO for disaster recovery. The category "mission-critical" has often additional associated service level requirements, e.g., maximum answer times for end users.

            And this is quite standard in most current SLA contracts that I have seen. So, while the OP and you think that these are buzzwords, in well-run IT shops they have very specific and very precise meaning.

        • by Karma Farmer (595141) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @06:33PM (#15109504)
          Some definitions:
          Web 2.0: Snake Oil
          Solution: Expensive Snake Oil
          Enterprise: Very Expensive Snake Oil
          Mission Critical: Indispensable [google.com] Snake Oil
          Partner: Snake Oil Salesman
          • by ktakki (64573)
            I lament the dilution of the phrase "mission critical".

            Once it was used to describe systems that were mission critical, where failure could lead to significant financial losses, property damage, injuries, or loss of life. Remember the part of the MS Windows EULA about Java?

            JAVA TECHNOLOGY IS NOT FAULT TOLERANT AND IS NOT DESIGNED, MANUFACTURED, OR INTENDED FOR USE OR RESALE AS ON-LINE CONTROL EQUIPMENT IN HAZARDOUS ENVIRONMENTS REQUIRING FAIL-SAFE PERFORMANCE, SUCH AS IN THE OPERATION OF NUCLEAR FACILITIES

        • by cruachan (113813)
          If you can point me to a document or documents standardizing terms like "Web 2.0", "enterprise", "solution", "mission-critical", "partner", etc., then I will admit my criticism of corporate speak is wrong.

          Just because a word or phrase doesn't have a standardized definition doesn't mean to say it's not useful. Quite the contary in fact. For example you cannot point me at a document that gives a standard definition of the phrase "In Love". I'm also sure it has subtly different meanings for different peo

          • Actually, you have named some extremely good examples of words that have been misused a great deal in recent years because of their imprecise meaning.

            Take "freedom" for example. Did our invasion of Iraq bring "freedom" to the Iraqi people? Is the US really the land of "freedom"? Just what are "freedom fighters", if the very same group of people who had that label in the 80s are the ones who supposedly "hate us for our freedom" now? This word has an automatic positive undertone to it in America. Who doe
        • by snuf23 (182335) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @08:49PM (#15110222)
          "If you can point me to a document or documents standardizing terms like "Web 2.0", "enterprise", "solution", "mission-critical", "partner", etc., then I will admit my criticism of corporate speak is wrong."

          Lol n00b! Like you even understand the Internets.

          Web 2.0: This is when Microsoft made the new Internets with Internet Explorer. Because the bearded old people who made Web 1.0 all died and no one can understand UNIX any more without them.

          enterprise: Ever heard of Star Trak????? This was teh first shuttle spaceship, it lasted 3 years out a five year mission then crashed into Florida.

          solution: if you had contacts you would realize this is what you put in your eyes to keep them wet, but nope you sure are to be a four-eyed geek! oh noes the nerds!

          mission-critical: the movie with Tom Cruise doing spy stuff. Come on this is really important to know about because of the terrorists. How can you do security if you don't know the secrets?

          partner: yeah no wonder you don't know - cus you never had one! except your hand!

          omgwtfbbqroflcopterslollercoasters
        • Put it this way: would you want your physician communicating with your heart surgeon about your upcoming quadruple-bypass operation using corporate-speak? Odds are they'd part you out by accident. Doctors also have their own dialect, just like most professions. Those specialized terms exist so that practitioners of a particular discipline can communicate quickly and efficiently with each other. Yes, jargon is often confusing to the uninitiated ... but it can be an effective form of verbal shorthand.

          Corpo
      • If the techie doesn't have the ability to make his point understood clearly to a layperson then he shouldn't be promoted, but remain a techie. Why is it that executives and managers seem to ONLY get promoted if they can succeed in not being able to communicate clearly?

        I work in biomedical engineering. If you want to succeed you have to know enough about medicine, biology, computers and engineering to talk to all those people intelligently and clearly, which almost always means terms a layman would have li
    • by Otter (3800) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @05:08PM (#15108870) Journal
      Ask them to explain what each term means. Example: What is Web 2.0 anyway? I haven't seen a new W3C standard called Web 2.0.

      No offense, but I'd rather deal with MBA-speak than Annoying Nerd Sarcasm any day.

      And for anyone who doubts that "deliverable" is a useful term, check today's interviews with Bruce Perens and with the new Debian leader to see what happens when that concept is missing.

    • by matt21811 (830841) * on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @05:30PM (#15109069) Homepage
      "You can use new technology as an opportunity to improve the operation of your business."

      There was a time when the word opportunity was a management buzword. I still hate the word. It seems to have become part of the business vocabulary even of people that hate corporate speak. Look:

      "You can use new technology to improve the operation of your business."

      Take the word out and the sentence has lost no meaning. That should be the definition of corporate speak.
      • by frank_adrian314159 (469671) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @12:44AM (#15111313) Homepage
        "You can use new technology to improve the operation of your business." Take the word out and the sentence has lost no meaning.

        I can do even better! Look:

        Technology can improve your business!

        I win!

        However, by shortening the sentence, I make it easier for someone to understand the meaning and say, "But it might not help your business, either." In the long form, one must attack the "new" and the "operation" before they get to the "improve". Corporate speech, rather than being useless, is a highly structured artform used to deflect potential attack and responsibility. Anyone in business will eventually need to engage on this field of battle. As such, it should not be shunned, but recognized and mastered for the useful tool it is.

    • by LithiumX (717017) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @05:41PM (#15109150)
      I think you're missing the point of that corporate-speke sentence.

      One of the biggest reasons why techies misunderstand C-Speke so often is because they are playing a different game. They want performance, they want efficiency, and they apply skill and acumen as a business tool. Therefore direct non-abstract literalism is the preferred (and for their line of work, only) medium of exchange.

      Now put yourself in the mindset of a business strategist. He was not saying that applying a particular technology will improve their business. The most literal meaning would be "We can make use of the hype around this new technology, the nature of which may be irrelevant to our concerns, to do things marketing-wise that are bluntly obvious to everyone in this room but that we don't want to say on the record.".

      C-Speke is very rarely about the technologies or concepts it talks about - it's a way for a different industry (marketing, analysis, and general business operations) to invoke shared abstractions without having to spell out the complexities on the spot. It's to a great extent a set of euphemisms that describe the realities of business without the perceived vulgarity of clearly stating the obvious. It's also very often a means of incorporating technical concepts that you cannot assume the target has an understanding of, and instead allows you to skip to the applicable part - the results.

      For instance... without business speak, many innocuous statements would be forced to say exactly what they mean... such as:

      "It is the belief of our marketing department that the tactics we will shortly propose will take advantage of the inherent weaknesses in the judgement of our clientele, as per our extensive research and marketing experiments, driving a wedge between them and our competition. Such a result can be taken advantage of with quick manuevering and specifically targetted activity. This action is quasi-legal according to our legal department, but with enough obfuscation we can get away with it. Covering this up requires a significant change in our business practices, which we must find a confusing means of portraying in a positive light."

      The fun part for the rest of you is to convert that honest statement into classic Corporate Speke. Remember, other C-Speakers should be able to get the gist of it, but you can't actually SAY what you mean.
      • I have to agree, most techs don't have the mindset of a business strategist. These different people just speak a different language, just like Techs and finance people speak a different language. All these languages serve their own purpose. Keep in mind that whenever a senior manager talks to techs he wonders about why these techs alwais have to talk techspeak :-)
        If you can't deal with the language barrier, I guess you're in the wrong place, I speak both and don't see the differences as a problem.

        Acually I
    • An example from one of my previous rants on this topic: "You can use the leviathan forces of attention and enthusiasm that are swirling around Web 2.0 these days as a powerful enabler to make something important and exciting happen in your organization." [...] The sentence essentially boils down to a simple statement: You can use new technology as an opportunity to improve the operation of your business. I think most would agree this is an obvious, uninteresting statement [...]

      Actually, I read it as "if y

    • You give them too much credit. What that paragraph actually says, translated roughly into geek, is that you can use some new web stuff and the hype surrounding it to make something. It might even be shiny.
    • by iserlohn (49556)
      You'll want this book -

      Why Business People Speak Like Idiots : A Bullfighter's Guide (Hardcover)
      by Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway, Jon Warshawsky
      ISBN: 0743269098
  • by east coast (590680) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @04:38PM (#15108607)
    I know in my company I've seen a member of another IT group move up fairly quickly and he speaks corporate lingo pretty well. Not to say he doesn't have talent but I can see where his "speaking the jive" helped him along with upper management.

    The question seem to be "who do you want to align yourself with (in the company) and can you get to your desired position with them?" If you want the position you're going to have to play their games to fall into their good graces, otherwise you can hold your head proudly high as you muttle through a job you'd rather not have.

    Or you can just move on altogether and hope for better.
    • The question seem to be "who do you want to align yourself with (in the company) and can you get to your desired position with them?"

      Or alternatly, can you stick your nose where others fear to tread and stand the smell of it?

    • The question seem to be "who do you want to align yourself with (in the company) and can you get to your desired position with them?" If you want the position you're going to have to play their games to fall into their good graces...

      This is a common sociological phenomenon, actually. If you're not willing to do any work to assimilate into the new group, the message this sends is that inclusion isn't important to you... and that you can be expected to behave accordingly when the group needs you. It's t

  • Alcohol (Score:5, Insightful)

    by krgallagher (743575) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @04:38PM (#15108610) Homepage
    "If you've found yourself in this position, what things did you do to cope?"

    I find a martini helps.

    Seriously though, I can remember when I was in my early adult life calling my older brother a yuppie and a sell out as I heard corporate speak creep into his vocabulary. Now, years later, I am as bad as any one. We all learned geek speak and tech speak in order to communicate with our peers. This is just another vocabulary to learn. If you want to be understood by non-IT coworkers, you have to speak their language.

  • Some yes, some no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mccalli (323026) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @04:40PM (#15108623) Homepage
    Some of the language you used in example, such as "opportunities for growth", is plainly nonsense in that context. However, some of them are every bit as technical and specific a term as, say "object" would be to an OO programmer.

    Take 'deliverable', for example. Nothing double-speak about that term, it's a business technical term with a specific meaning. 'Function' - though this one has the possibility for misuse, again it's a specific technical term to describe separation of responsibilities if applied to people, or specific capability if applied to a computer system (which may include both hardware and software).

    Don't dismiss all of it, because some of it is exactly the kind of jargon you'd be used to in, say, programming. But keep an ear open for someone who's plainly speaking gibberish though.

    Cheers,
    Ian

    • I agree, and am going to expand on the parent poster's point.

      Buzzwords like "Web 2.0" are, for the most part, nonesense. Sometimes vendors have come up with terms for things that already exist, like NAS instead of NFS. Sometimes these words are meaningless, and you should try to resist them by focusing your energy on what /your/ boss cares about, the buisness.

      And that gets me to the second point, which is what the parent said, "delieverable" isn't a buzzword. It's jargon. Specifically, it's buisness jargon,
      • NAS and NFS (Score:2, Informative)

        by hackwrench (573697)
        NAS (Network Attached Storage) is hardware that connects to the network with minimal computer components.
        NFS (Network File System) is a Filesystem layer exposed to clents for connecting to storage on the network, be they NAS or server-based storage.

        There isn't necessarily a clear line between NAS and server-based storage, but there is a clear difference between NAS and NFS.
    • Use words that add meaning to what you're trying to say. Don't use words that subtract meaning from what you're trying to say. Calling layoffs "realignments" and difficult people as "challenging" is obviously just doubletalk nonsense designed to hide what's real. But value-added and total cost of ownership are phrases that actually convey meaning that other phrases/words don't.

      Also, don't abuse these words either. Know what they actually mean and when to use them. There's plenty of people that don't kn
      • > Calling layoffs "realignments" and difficult people as "challenging" is obviously just doubletalk nonsense designed to hide what's real.

        "layoffs" implies that you think you are being brutal, "realignments" implies that think you are doing what you have to.

        "difficult" implies that you disapprove of a person's interation with other people, "challenging" says you don't care, you just want to get the best out of your staff.

        Your choice of word will affect the actions taken by your colleagues. That is why ma
  • Coping (Score:5, Funny)

    by Otto (17870) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @04:41PM (#15108643) Homepage Journal
    If you've found yourself in this position, what things did you do to cope?

    I cursed a lot. Instead of calling somebody "more challenging", say he's an "asshole". It helps.
    • I cursed a lot. Instead of calling somebody "more challenging", say he's an "asshole". It helps.

      Other terms that may be helpful (WARNING: Some readers may find some of these words offensive)

      • Bunghole
      • Dipsh*t
      • Smeghead
      • Pudknocker
      • Buttcrud
    • Re:Coping (Score:3, Funny)

      by jamesbrown1000 (39200)
      From a language standpoint, I picked the low-hanging fruit and strategized into a win-win position for myself and my clients.

      Wait. What was the question again?
    • Cursing is a sign of weakness and leads to more trouble than the satisfaction is worth. I found to always be direct but polite is more efficient and in the long term gives less negative side effects. And if you can't say anything good about a person you don't realy care about, better don't say anything at all. Calling too many peoples arseholes just dilutes the meaning and put those really deserving this description into a better light by association.

      As to the buzzwords, for me works best if I speak to mana
  • When in Rome... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TopShelf (92521) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @04:44PM (#15108669) Homepage Journal
    While it makes for great material for Dilbert, the fact is that a lot (not all) management speak does actually have a purpose and meaning.

    Let's look at some of these examples:

    There are no company layoffs, there are 'realignments'.
    Very rarely do layoffs simply mean reducing the number of people performing a particular function. Often, there is a fundamental change made to an existing business process, so people and organizations do indeed need to be "realigned" to support the new environment.

    "Functions" should be pretty obvious - what activity is an individual or group performing in support of a given process?

    "Deliverables" - these are the tangible results that are to be achieved through a given project or activity. Nobody cares whether you're 67% of the way done, or 72% - they want to know when the Deliverable can be expected, so they can then act upon it.

    "Value Add" - this is when you take a strip down a process to its bare bones and examine where the benefit to the company or customer is truly being applied. Steps along the way that don't increase that benefit are candidates for elimination or automation.

    These are actually pretty powerful terms, and it's important to have a common vocabulary that can be used when bringing together managers from varying fields like sales, IT, operations, finance, etc.
    • Re:When in Rome... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Rob_Bryerton (606093)
      There are no company layoffs, there are 'realignments'. Very rarely do layoffs simply mean reducing the number of people performing a particular function. Often, there is a fundamental change made to an existing business process, so people and organizations do indeed need to be "realigned" to support the new environment.

      Oh, so they're not laid off, they're realigned. But they're still out of work. That's called a euphamism, useful for propaganda. So let's put this in plain English: There are no company
      • there can be a difference between what you might want to ship and what you might want to call a product :-D.
      • Re:When in Rome... (Score:3, Informative)

        by radish (98371)
        Oh, so they're not laid off, they're realigned. But they're still out of work. That's called a euphamism, useful for propaganda. So let's put this in plain English: There are no company layoffs, there are company layoffs.
        You're missing the point. The realignment is the process, the layoffs are the (potential) result. The department I work in recently had some realignments due to fundamental changes in how the business we support worked. How many layoffs? Actually none - we're hiring like mad. Realignment me
  • by TheGrapeApe (833505) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @04:44PM (#15108670)
    Start thinking "outside the box". You need to take a more solution-oriented approach to your problem and focus on your deliverables.

    I think you'll find that if you shift your paradigm a little bit, your growth intensity will increase by orders of magnitude.

    Just create a win-win big picture for yourself and you're success strategy will manifest itself with "positive team margins" for everyone around you.
  • Dont YOU worry about blank, let ME worry about blank... or Blank? BLANK!?! you are not looking at the big picture.
  • by Crash Culligan (227354) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @04:49PM (#15108713) Journal

    Unfortunate? Yes. Ugly? Absolutely. And some folks are aware of just how bad it can get [alistapart.com]. But it may also be unavoidable in the rarified air of the management environment.

    Communication is, among many other things, using terms and phrases that others understand. And some management-speak ("deliverables," "work-products," etc.) has precise meaning within the work environment. Not everyone knows what those terms mean, but in the shop that uses them regularly, not only will they be recognized, but for instance if you ask them what the difference between deliverables and work-products are, they can tell you. (I picked those two because, having worked in the office of a process improvement consultancy, I know what the difference is too. Or at least, I know a reasonable-sounding set of definitions.)

    It may be an odd dialect they speak, but they don't do it just to confuse people. They do it to communicate, and it's worthwhile to learn it even if it does sound stupid.

  • Everyone has to deal with this at some point, and everyone's going to have a different opinion about it.

    When you're talking to superiors, use whatever language they want, standing your ground only when someting REALLY bugs you (like I do when folks ask if I "have enough bandwidth" to do something unrelated to data transmission). When talking to folks not your superior, use whatever language you want that is clear and effective. This way, you get the best of both worlds for (IMHO) marginal effort.

    When you
    • The only one I currently battle is using "architect" as a verb. I'm a geek enough to know what paradigms, quanta, and synergy is, so I actually enjoy their use (because it's easy to use them mockingly, and it helps to point out the cliche).

      After all, to me it's not so much that these words or phrases are bad. It's that they're often being used in entirely the wrong context, like your bandwidth example. Or using "download" seriously when nothing's being downloaded. At that point, it's only one quick ho

    • I didn't think that tragedy required hubris, merely a flawed protagonist.
  • by dankney (631226) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @04:53PM (#15108753) Homepage
    You're going to have to know the corporate lingo in order to survive in that culture. That doesn't mean you have to use it.

    Be aware, though, the jargon evolved for a reason. While doing contract Sarbanes-Oxley work for a major telcom, I found that meetings that used jargon were far more efficient than the meetings that didn't. That doesn't mean that everyone uses it meaningfully and responsibly, but when you're in a room with a group that does, it can be amazingly efficient.
  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @04:54PM (#15108770) Homepage
    Read the Wall Street Journal for guidance on how to talk about business. The Journal covers most aspects of business, yet there's very little "corporate speak". If you follow their style, you'll come across well to upper management, all of whom, unless totally incompetent, read it daily.
  • by Maljin Jolt (746064) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @04:55PM (#15108778) Journal
    Is corporate speak a necessary evil?

    Nah, dude.
  • I have noticed that as I deal more and more with upper management, selling them on products and direction, as well as with hardware/software vendors, the dreaded corporate speak slang is becoming part of my daily life.

    There you have it. Upper management. The bane of IT's existence. Mostly vacuous, possibly harmless, but given the reins of power and turned loose with their copies of "The 7 Habits of Highly Defective People" and sent out to manage projects and departments which they know nothing about. And

  • Speaking in code (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Fun Guy (21791) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @05:03PM (#15108843) Homepage Journal
    Is this just something one has to cope with in order to climb the corporate ladder?

    When you are just an IT guy, speaking with other IT guys, you can say, "Alice is lazy." or "Bob is a selfish asshat." or "Charlie is overworked." without any fear of reprisal. Who cares what you think?

    Once you become a suit, however, you can't say things like that to your fellow suits (at least not in public) because when Alice, Bob or Charlie gets fired, doesn't get a promotion, files a greivance, or feels their bonus is too small, your comments will be held against you. So, Alice becomes "externally motivated". Bob becomes "independent and self-reliant". Charlie becomes "a key asset". Who the heck talks like this? More importantly, who the heck would *want* to talk like this?

    Why, other suits, of course. Suits want to be able to communicate with each other, but not necessarily communicate with non-suits. So, they use a thousand words of double talk to avoid answering a simple question, because if they were to give a real, informative answer, it would get them in trouble. What do you say when any answer, including dead silence or "No comment." would cause wild rumors in the department and mass defections, or cause your stock to dip, or make the IT guys revolt, or otherwise tie your hands at some point in the future? Why, you use a weighted cost benefit analysis strategy to rationalize the ROI for all the relevant options, and leverage those key insights into a forward looking strategy for addressing the primary mission tasks in a teamwork-based approach.

    And while everyone is trying to figure out what you just said, you slip out the side door.

    When your words carry more weight, you use them more carefully.
  • Is it just me, or there other slashdotters that don't know WTF you define 'corporate lingo'. Its a pretty vague term which is apparently all negative according to this crowd. I can imagine hate for something thats an aface to you, but what exactly is 'corporate lingo'? I've been in IT and business for a good seven years and I've never heard the term ever mentioned. Not from IT guys, business people, anything. Maybe could you use a more acurate in describing what you hate. Talking of vagueness, you aren't d
  • Pot Meet Kettle... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by trix_e (202696) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @05:15PM (#15108938)
    Kettle Meet Pot...

    As much as you apparently abhor "corporate speak"... its just slang (as you point out) specific to a particular culture. You seem perfectly comfortable using euphemisms ("an already full plate" vs. "too many things to do"), these are just new ones. Every culture and group has it... think of how many you use in the IT world. Would one of your non-IT corporate wonks understand if you told him you'd ping someone and get back to him?

    Oh stewardess! I speak jive... Jus' hang loose, blood. She gonna catch ya up on da' rebound on da' med side.

    (and don't even get me started on Gladiator movies)
  • There is no getting away from corporate-speak, but we can try to curb the worst excesses.

    What I find most offensive is when words that are not verbs, are made into verbs:

    PHB: Can you action this for me?

    Action is not a verb, and making it one does not clarify what the PHB is asking me to do. From an aural perspective, it has more interesting implications, and I assume that is why the suits speak that way.

    When I discuss a technical problem with my colleagues, we use acronyms and concepts that my manager s

    • When I discuss a technical problem with my colleagues, we use acronyms and concepts that my manager simply does not understand, but we completely understand. In doing so, we are able to communicate more efficiently amongst ourselves. I wonder if the suits are not doing the same thing?


      Sometimes language is in the mouth of the speaker:

      I am tenacious, you are stubborn, he is mule-headed.
    • What I find most offensive is when words that are not verbs, are made into verbs

      "I'm most offended by the verbing of nouns." ...much simpler.

      English is flexible...change it to suit your needs. If verbing nouns or nouning adjectives helps you get your message across, don't let the rules of grammer stop you. Those 'rules' only exist to aid communication by standardization. When the rules get in the way, toss them out the window.

      Consider grammar as a pile of RFCs, not the ten commandments. If you need a ne
    • PHB: Can you action this for me?

      Aaaaarrrrgggghhh! That's the one that does my head in. That's the one that's like fingernails on a blackboard to me. WHAT THE HELL BECAME OF THE PERFECTLY GOOD ENGLISH VERB 'TO DO', FUCKERS?

      May Lucifer and Cthulhu devour the souls of all PHBs who use 'action' as a verb, over a candlelit dinner date!

  • by stienman (51024) <adavis@@@ubasics...com> on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @05:25PM (#15109040) Homepage Journal

    Each of those phrases, and many others you run into, have real meaning. Others in this thread have already commented on the specific phrases you bring up.

    The reality is that people speak in terms that are common to their field. If you read any of the literature that your business peers reads, run in the same circles that they run in, and even think about the same problems they think about, you'll find yourself adopting their terminology.

    It will make sense to you to do so, for the terms they use are actually more precise in their intended meaning than the replacements you give. You are tending to describe the main action or effect of a particular phrase, but the phrase actually encompasses much more. A realignment is exactly that - it may have the effect of layoffs, hires, and other movement of people, but it doesn't necessarily involve all or any of those things.

    When they speak to you about a realignment, and you say, "Oh, you mean layoffs?" they will simply tune you out.

    If they were to come into your field and choose not embrace your language you would certainly feel as though they don't really understand, and you would subsequently marginalize them and their work.

    -Adam
  • You do NOT have to start speaking corporatese yourself, at least, not mostly. You may occasionally have to demonstrate the ability to do so, but on the whole you should express yourself clearly in plain English. However, not being able to decipher the unclear speech of the higher-ups would be a significant problem. However lame their lingo may be, you'll nonetheless want to learn enough of it to be able to understand them at least as well as they understand one another. And, I should note, this sort of
  • You merely have to remember that objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.
  • So? (Score:5, Informative)

    by theonetruekeebler (60888) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @05:50PM (#15109216) Homepage Journal
    Somewhere there's a BBS, maybe it's called "managedot.com", and there's a bunch of managers on there bitching about how IT Speak is invading the management sphere. They complain about "certificate authorities" and "throughput" and how their network was having "collsions." How instead of printers, they now have queues. That they have to use a "proxy" and "configure their SSL." It's all alien and a waste of time.

    All specialized realms have their own jargon. Managers deal with a corporation's resources, and employees are a resource that has to get hired, paid, evaluated and either promoted or fired. "Realignment" doesn't strictly mean "round of layoffs," but managers understand that realignments often result in layoffs. Management speak has its share of euphemisms: Sometimes managers have to do unpleasant things that will affect other people's lives. But for the most part, it is nothing more than a specialized vocabulary for dealing with resource issues.

    But don't say "paradigm" if you can avoid it. Or "synergy." Finally, don't hesitate to use your pre-existing specialized vocabulary to bullshit your way through bullshit situations.

  • Think of it as just another scripting language to learn.

    There's management-speak and there's bullshit.

    Management-speak isn't necessarily bad. As another poster stated very correctly, a lot of these words and phrases have real meaning, although I've banned my girlfriend, who's a pretty high-level strategy consultant, from using "input" and "feedback" in a personal context.

    Assuming you're a smart cookie, you can pick it up and figure out for yourself where the boundary lies. "Risk", "framework", "synergies"
  • Test a company's credibility online by doing a Google search for an overused word or phrase. Limit the search to the company's web site using the "site:" prefix. For example, try the word "solution", as in "We don't sell products, we sell solutions." At the time I did the test, Google showed 640 hits for the word "solution" [google.com] on the QWest Communications web site.

    Here are the first 25 hits on 08/02/2005, when I wrote this story:

    1. Whole House Digital Solution
    2. Uniform Access Solution (UAS)
    3. premises-based solution
    4. network-based solution
    5. Solution Providers
    6. Internet Port solution
    7. VoIP solution
    8. long-term solution, software solution
    9. Comprehensive Voice Solution
    10. hosted solution
    11. complete on-line trading solution
    12. VoIP solution set
    13. Web-Based Contact Center Solution
    14. Troubleshooting Guide Problem Solution
    15. Repeated: network-based solution
    16. national voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) solution
    17. iQ Networking solution, security solution
    18. preset solution
    19. e-Solution
    20. complex integrated ASP solution
    21. carrier-grade solution
    22. Repeated: Internet Port solution
    23. Business Solution
    24. Government Technology Solution, Centrex PRIME solution
    25. Qwest solution

    This is not a complaint about QWest, which seems to have good telephone and DSL service. But their marketing language may need reconsideration.

    If you need a list of over-used terms, visit the Bullsh**t Bingo [perkigoth.com] web site. There's a Bulls**t Bingo movie [ifilm.com], too. I think they should do a re-make of the movie in which, once Bingo is reached, the speaker is required to leave the room immediately. (Remember to put quote marks around phrases. We respect the ownership of any trademarks on the list.)
  • by clambake (37702) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @06:26PM (#15109462) Homepage
    When you hear this kind of stuff, call people on it. They will be amazed, if you are charismatic enough.

    Right in the middle of the meeting, assuming everyone around you is part of the company and not clients/customers, say "Hey Bob, hold up a second. Why exactly did you say 'revirtualization of the engagement parameters' instead of 'come up with a new plan' just there? That sounds a bit like a buzz word babble. Now I don't have anything against you personally, but I don't think that kind of talk is appropriate for the workplace. It just leads to confusion of terms, and unclear communication, and when you don't have good, clear communication, you fail as a business."
    • by cruachan (113813) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @07:03PM (#15109686)
      Bob is of course an idiot.

      But this is precisely what you shouldn't do. Bob is going to hate your guts for making him look like an idiot, the Friends of Bob around the table are also going to hate your guts for making their fried look like an idiot, and the ones left are going to think your a smartass and hate your guts in case you do it to them next. And they'll all be looking for a way to take you down a peg or two next time they get the chance - which as you're going to have to use techie jargon at some point is likely sooner than later.

      If you don't understand basic human nature at a level that can anticipate this then there's no way you should be let out of the techie corner except under close supervision. Charismatic? Ha.
      • But this is precisely what you shouldn't do. Bob is going to hate your guts for making him look like an idiot, the Friends of Bob around the table are also going to hate your guts for making their fried look like an idiot, and the ones left are going to think your a smartass and hate your guts in case you do it to them next. And they'll all be looking for a way to take you down a peg or two next time they get the chance - which as you're going to have to use techie jargon at some point is likely sooner than
    • Too complex. I listen to their babble, look thoughtful for a moment, and then say:

      "So what you're saying is, you've got a new plan?"

      I don't bother telling them that they're being an idiot. I just make it very clear that I am going to reduce their twenty minutes of babble into one or two sentences. Furthermore I then proceed as if that's all they said - it's what the minutes will contain, if we're bothering to keep any, and it's the message I'll pass on to other people.

      I find that pretty soon, people catch o
  • by 91degrees (207121) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @06:38PM (#15109534) Journal
    A lot of people like a straight talker. People who avoid flowery language give the impression of honesty and reliability. You don't need realignments. You need layoffs! Otherwise you're lying to people. Which is completely pointless because you're not actually deceiving anyone, so you're a bastard and a liar rather than just a bastard.

    Avoid buzzwords, and avoid metaphor. Use jargon if neccesary, but only if it's absolutely clear from context or general use that everyone knopws what the jargon means. Learn the difference between jargon and buzzwords.
  • As you've obviously already taken a position that moves away from pure techie to more general management already then you should take onboard that to succeed in that role you have to interface effectively between IT and Management.

    Maybe you've not picked up on it yet, but managers are usually scared of dealing with the IT department. In most companies nowdays the managers are will aware that the company would collapse without the IT function, but at the same time they don't fully understand it and it's a c
  • Risk Averse (Score:5, Insightful)

    by umbrellasd (876984) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @07:34PM (#15109859)
    What you are describing is a Culture of Fear. Many companies and indeed our society as a whole is moving toward the fear and lack of freedom end of the social spectrum. In my last job, I saw this. It was virtually impossible to provide negative feedback directly, even if it was done in a very polite way. The mere notion that something a person did was a mistake, or even more delicately, was done in a way that could be improved upon in a future iteration, was anathema.

    What is happening here is that people are terrified of failure. Usually it comes from the top, as managers and manager's managers set the tone and culture and reinforce it by their actions. But if you work in a Culture of Fear, everything most be portrayed in a positive light or people become fearful and then they start scheming to protect themselves, which in turn causes fear in others around them and then it snowballs.

    Most people can't take the truth. Most people will not get far in life because of it. In work, in martial arts, in every aspect of life, you will see the people that are terrified of fucking up, and then you will see those that are not. And you will rarely--very rarely--see those two kinds of people together.

    Those that take mistakes in stride and realize that a mistake is a real growth opportunity and is desirable, will avoid the risk averse because the risk averse are suffocating to them. Those that are risk averse will avoid those that thrive on the learning opportunities provided by mistakes because they are terrified by anyone that makes mistakes in their vicinity and even worse will own up to it, confront it, and deal with it.

    If you work for a corporation, you have to speak their language. But you can choose which corporation you work for. Not all corporations are Cultures of Fear. If you don't want to speak that language, seek out a corporation with management and leadership that speaks your language. If you see these things now, your eyes are open to it, and when you speak with new companies you will see what you would not have seen before.

    You will recognize fear and you will recognize courage. Your choice.

    If you work in a Culture of Fear, yes you have to speak their language. Otherwise you are going to terrify them with your openness and honesty and that is going to be bad for them and for you. If you decide to stay in that environment, your best bet is to find those that are courageous and work toward bringing them into your circle of existence (there are always wonderful people at a company, even if it is not readily apparent).

    From a practical approach, if you can take it. Speak the language, get the promotion and the experience that goes with it, and then go find a great job at a company that is based on courage rather than fear.

    • I have worked as a professional educator and "eduspeak" is exactly like "corporate speak."

      "Risk averse" seems to explain it quite well - it's basically a way of being really, really nice when speaking about students who may occassionally encounter cognitive challenges when attempting to complete their coursework.

      I don't think eduspeak is *all* bad; it's basically an expression of the belief that all students are worthwhile human beings, and that all people need each other.

      The problem comes when you build up
  • by Chuqmystr (126045) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @08:09PM (#15110051) Homepage
    Just yell "SPEAK THE KING'S ENGLISH! Speak the good king's English, I command thee fool!" whilst beating the perpetrator about the head, neck and chest with a rolled up TPS report.
  • by aiken_d (127097) <brooks.tangentry@com> on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @08:11PM (#15110058) Homepage
    Welcome to how corporate types have felt for years about techie jargon.

    Management-speak, like tech speak, is a specialized jargon which, when properly used, simplifies and clarifies communication between peers. However, just like geek talk, it can be abused by the pretentious and self-promoting.

    You know how you always cringe when someone in a movie talks about reversing the binary encryption bus, and everyone around you nods? Well, that's how (real) management types feel when they hear someone talking about synergistic upmarket brand dilution. There are poseurs in all fields, and fakes *love* jargon.

    Just like some geeks actually know what they're talking about and can communicate in english when needed, if you give it some time you will find that there is a place in the world for management speak.

    And, just like geek speak, don't hesitate to ask for an explanation. Just like pretentions geek wanna-be's, smarmy management wanna-be's can't explain what they just said because they're just buzzwording. And if they *can* explain, they're knowledgeable enough that you can stand to learn from 'em.

    -b
  • by Leon da Costa (225027) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @08:37PM (#15110177)
    Well... I guess I am in the position to comment on this one. Depending on your viewpoint, I may be a corporate sell-out, a nerd without spine or just someone who goes where the challenge is.

    I'm a CCIE, so I have at least some credibility in the tech department. I spent years working on some of the most interesting projects a CCIE could dream of - network planning, (re)design, troubleshooting, working with Cisco and other vendors to develop next generation features... Yeah, it was interesting and 98% tech-related. After a few years, though, I kind of lost interest. I found that the "next generation" complex system after BGP wasn't RPSLng but instead systems of people. Once you get the RFC, working with the system is simply a derivative. However, there's no RFC for "how companies work" - and there are so many more facets to understanding the system of how people work within a company than within even the most complex network. Maybe it's different if you program java, but for me, I found the interesting challenge elsewhere.

    Most of us wonder why the heck our stupid managers make some of the decisions they do. Yes, maybe they are plain stupid. Maybe, though, "they" understand something that we do not - and I wasn't going to let the arrogance of "knowing better because I am a geek" tell me that managers are stupid. I wanted to find out what made them tick.

    I am now enrolled in a part-time MBA program at a good institution (and recently recertified for two more years of CCIE-dom while doing it). I've had a job as a "pre-sales consultant" so I could begin to understand how this whole evil sales process actually takes place. I've always wondered why someone with money to spare would give it to someone who, to us geeks, obviously has so little brain as a sales guy.

    No, the answer is not that people with money to spare are by definition stupid. The answer is not that sales people are necessarily shallow. The answer is not that earning money is evil. The answer from the IT department should not be "I READ YOUR EMAIL! FEAR ME!", as this is probably the best excuse I can think of to recommend outsourcing to the next CIO I meet.

    I'm now at the point where I have taken up a relatively new concept within my company and can make it work partially because I understand the technological concepts underlying it AND because I can explain to companies why it is important for them to invest in my concept. This requires me to speak some of the lingo - and yes, I do talk about adding value to a company's core business processes with the use of our business solution. I talk about the benefits of RFID for supply chain management. I wear an expensive suit and describe the opportunity for growth in a certain market which can be enabled by this-or-that network solution. So, yes, the 'speak' is important if you want those who are likely to make decisions to hear you.

    However, having said that, the 'catch' is that there is a lot of BS going around in the corporate-speak-world. If you discuss a routing protocol, there can be no dispute - in the end, look up the RFC or reproduce whatever you're trying to prove. Discussing a company's marketing strategy or trying to make a business case for unified messaging is a lot more shaky. There's no undisputable book or testlab to point to and say "look, you're wrong, see - that's not how it works!". I can quote the latest book or article I read about the latest trend in strategy. I blurt out page numbers of Harvard Business Review articles. This is not proof, though. The guy to which I am talking can always blurt out some Sloan Managment Review article which declares exactly the opposite. Or worse, he will pretend to know it better - and he just might. There's no way to prove it. Professors have been wrong - unlike a routing protocol, which just "is".

    This is exactly why corporate BS'ers get away with BS'ing - and why it's so difficult for most of us with a technical background to work with a system that apparently allows tolerance for nonsense.
  • by gone.fishing (213219) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @11:13PM (#15110811) Journal
    I guess the short answer is: Yes, corporate speak is necessary. My former boss compared a pitch to proposing to your girlfriend. Would you wrap an engagment ring in an old newspaper and just leave it out for her to find? Would you ask her for her hand in marriage while wearing your sweats?

    No, that would not be very romantic. You want to take her out to a nice place to eat dressed up, present the ring while on a knee and have it in a nice box, maybe even wrapped in a nice ribbon.

    Presenting any proposal to a group of your superiors is a bit like that. Not only do you want to have a good idea but you want to be able to sell it. The right words, the right time, and the right appearance will all help you to sell your idea.

    I have a strong dislike for terms like "Best Practices" and "synergy" but I manage to keep from gagging when I use 'em (and I do, but as little as possible). My current bosses like what they call "solid numbers" which are really hard to come by when you are trying to convince them that they need to spend money on something like spyware detection. How can I give them hard numbers on the money we can save if we prevent a theft of information that leads to a loss? How many millions could we lose if spyware captured information that could lead to their accessing one of our bank accounts (say the one that is used for payroll for thousands of people)? The obvious answer is millions but the hard numbers answer is impossible to come by.

    It all leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. It is a game that must be played by "their" rules even when you don't agree with them or know all of them. As an IT person, you are occasionally a salesperson for your team. When that role falls on your shoulders, you have to take the good with the bad and just do your best.

    There are some words that are important to use very infrequently - they have so much power that they are like pulling out a handgun. Use them very infrequently and only when all other words have been used and found to be too weak. Those words are "Ethically" "Morally" and most importantly "Fiduciary Responsibility." They are words that reach down into the core of the manager's and director's souls (VP's don't have souls).

I came, I saw, I deleted all your files.

Working...