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Attack of the Corporate Weasel Words 490

theodp writes "Does it bother you that churches have a Mission Statement touting their Core Values? That even the CIA has a Vision? In his book Death Sentences: How Clichés, Weasel Words and Management-Speak are Strangling Public Language and in this Newsweek interview, Australian author Don Watson argues it's time to protest the mind-numbing business jargon that infests our schools, churches and political speech. Examples that people have sent to him can be found on Watson's website."
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Attack of the Corporate Weasel Words

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  • by professorhojo ( 686761 ) * on Monday July 11, 2005 @10:56AM (#13032893)
    my favorite from TFB would have to be the "Damaging energy exchange". I think it means accident. Although the report in which it was included was at pains to point out that "accident" was an inappropriate term for a "damaging energy exchange", and that the British Medical Association Journal had banned the use of the word "accident" in its articles.' And of course, to "Add value", which is obviously 'to agree with one's boss.'
    • In Soviet Russia, all your Natalie Portman hot grittified, Netcraft BSD/Steven King obituaried, greased Yoda doll in mabootied, welcomed by our new GNAA-overlorded, imaginary beowulf cluster of Burma Shavin' weasel words are belong to us!
    • != accident. (Score:3, Informative)

      by oneiros27 ( 46144 )
      That sounds more like a crash to me -- and not all crashes are accidental.

      We can't exactly use the word collision, as not all collisions cause damage (purely elastic or purely inelastic collisions will transfer energy without permenant deformation of the bodies involved)

      I'm not sure if there are times when the word 'crash' denotes a situation that isn't a 'damaging energy exchange', but it seems better than 'accident', which has more to do with something not having been done intentionally, and very little
    • Outsource This! (Score:3, Informative)

      by minginqunt ( 225413 )
      It's all well and good, as we geeks love to feel superior to management-sorts and snicker at them at every available opportunity.

      However, this man comes across as something of a luddite. Much of his opposition to certain phrases is decidedly ludden.

      What's wrong with "email" as a noun? "E-mail Message" is long and pointless, when Huffman coding suggest it can be shortened to "E-mail" or just "Mail".

      In addition to that opposition, he seems to have a limited grasp of Idiom, Synecdoche, Zeugma and other lon
      • Re:Outsource This! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by CmdrGravy ( 645153 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @11:34AM (#13033292) Homepage
        If you had read the article properly you would have noticed that all the examples you are quoting are examples he has received from contributors, the opinions on the phrases are also the contributors opinions.

        I agree with you that some of those points are uneccesarily nitpicking and anal but I have to say that Detention Centre is certainly a good description of a prison but sort of implies that it's somewhere you can drop in and out of at will when you wish to be detained.

      • Notice that you're commenting on contributed items (comments), not the FA itself. Turns out I know the guy who complained about "email message" - he might indeed be a bit of a Luddite, or at least more pedantic than I.

        (A pedant is anyone who cares about at least one more detail than I do. Anyone who cares about one less detail than I do is a lazy slob, of course.)

    • Good example of clutter comes from President reagan's secretary of state who said: "at this juncture of maturization" to mean "now". And when an air force missile crashed, it "impacted with the ground prematurely".

      These examples are from _On Writing Well_ by William Zinsser, a book that should be read by everyone.
    • Re:Dilbert (Score:5, Insightful)

      by superpulpsicle ( 533373 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @11:02AM (#13032959)
      My sunday newspaper has Dilbert in the frontpage. I remember the days when a kid could wake up sunday morning and have only Garfield and other innocent comics.

      Now they are well trained politically, corporately for the next generation of work environment. My neighbors kids always do Dilbert skits. WTF is the world coming to when 10 year olds immitate managers and chief execs for fun?!

      • Re:Dilbert (Score:5, Funny)

        by D-Cypell ( 446534 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @11:11AM (#13033056)
        WTF is the world coming to when 10 year olds immitate managers and chief execs for fun?!

        Funny... our chief exec does a pretty impressive immmitation of a 10 year old!
      • Re:Dilbert (Score:4, Insightful)

        by dustmite ( 667870 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @01:06PM (#13034177)

        You might find this an interesting read: The Trouble with Dilbert []. A snippet:

        Dilbert cartoons calcify the essence of the repressive workplace. ...

        "Historically," Ralph Nader has pointed out, "you control people by lowering their expectations." This is true in the workplace and other spheres of life. The diminishing of what we could or should expect -- from ourselves, and each other, and institutions -- normalizes what we find unpleasant or worse. For corporate elites, that diminishment is a pleasure to behold. In Nader's words: "If our expectations are low, they have control."
  • by MosesJones ( 55544 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @10:59AM (#13032926) Homepage

    If we aren't going to eight-ball on these associative forward looking statements then clearly we've all got to just co-operatively compete in deciding on a common way forwards that brings all of the stakeholders on board, while enabling individuals to determine their own optimal path to success.

    My other pet peeve is "solutions" as in "refuse organisation and disposal solutions" - Trash collection.

  • Gaius Lucius Aetor, prefect of rome, decries the jargon laden language infesting the shools where young romans are taught. Say Lucius "It is time to strike back against this meaningless business jargon, which substitutes platitudes for thought"
  • Anything which says "Innovat" in some form is bullshit. It's the same toy as last week with more useless buttons.

    "We're working on a new phone, it'll be even better then the last one because it can send e-mails and surf the internet!" translates to "We're adding more things which cost a lot of money and won't improve your phone any".

    The old saying "If it's too good to be true, it probably is".
    • Quite frankly, I'd be satisfied if they said "We're working on a new phone, it'll be even better than the last one because it can send e-mails and surf the internet!" instead of "We are designing an nth generation wireless device which will empower users by facilitating multiple forms of digital communication."
  • It has to happen (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Vodak ( 119225 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @11:00AM (#13032938)
    We are in a culture where people need to specialize in order to succeed. Now there is only so much specialization that can be achieved. So of course buzz words are needed to justify the niche marketing of... business, goods, and even employment specialties.
    • by brother_b ( 16716 )
      Weasely buzzwords or manager-speak like the ones described here exist for one reason - to make middle management actually seem like they serve a purpose. They can send out memo after memo of absolutely no substance and still seem to be doing something useful.
  • It's annoying but... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Iriel ( 810009 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @11:01AM (#13032946) Homepage
    ...the pointy haired boss from Dilbert is not just a myth. Without these words, that I find to be a detestable sore upon my tounge for each utterance, there are managers that would say "Ooh, that doesn't sound so good... why don't you uhh... perk it up a little bit....yeah." Basically we need to find the Lumbergh gene in the human race and erradicate it so we can stop making the stupid bosses happy, then we can dispose of these garbage words.
    • Without these words, that I find to be a detestable sore upon my tounge for each utterance...

      Sorry, but I'm not sure you're in a position to cast the first stone here...

  • Already Written (Score:5, Informative)

    by shaunj ( 72350 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @11:01AM (#13032951) Journal
    Didn't Orwell write this long ago: []
    • Re:Already Written (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ffrinch ( 586802 )
      Yes, and he wrote it much, much better.

      I looked at Weasel Words in the bookshop when it first came out, and it's incredibly dull. Honestly, if someone needs an entire book on weasel words in order to recognize them, they're already a lost cause.
      • Re:Already Written (Score:5, Insightful)

        by flyingsquid ( 813711 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @12:08PM (#13033614)
        Actually, the correct term is not "weasel words". It's "mustelid lexicography".

        Strunk and White's _Elements of Style_ is another great guide to writing. It lives its message: the book says to be short and to the point, and so the book is actually short and to the point.It goes from the basics like joining sentences to the principles of composition and clear writing. Anyone who wants to be a writer, whether as a journalist, novelist, or academic, needs to pick up a copy.

        I can't believe that almost got through senior year of college without ever having read this book, which is ridiculous- there's this idea in America that you don't need to learn the rules and basics of your craft anymore, whether its art or writing or whatever- well, that idea is bullshit. I'm all for breaking loose and breaking all the rules, but it helps to know the rules in the first place. And for every one Jack Kerouac who can write brilliant drug-fuelled free-form prose, there are a dozen people who really need to pick up Strunk and White, and Orwell's _Politics and the English Language_ Essay and learn to string two words together (I'm firmly in the second camp).

    • Re:Already Written (Score:2, Informative)

      by Jumperalex ( 185007 )
      Yes he did and he did it better. Everyone needs to read it, and reread it once a year.
  • by edremy ( 36408 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @11:02AM (#13032955) Journal
    "Exciting re-review and recommenting opportunity" for the /. editor's favorite activity.
  • Until you get rid of the "never say die" agendas that everyone has, you'll never get rid of this type of dialogue.

    They have their spin that their talking points are designed to get across, and so long as they are defending a position that benefits them (no matter how hypocritical or nonsensical), they're going to have to utilize such unnatural speech.
    • by Foobar of Borg ( 690622 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @11:29AM (#13033244)
      One of the best counters to this kind of nonsensical speech is the Socratic method of inquiry. Basically, you keep asking questions about what specifically they mean by a certain phrase, and then what they mean by the BS phrase they use to explain the first BS phrase, and so on. This gets rid of a lot of the nonsense speech assuming, of course, that the person speaking such nonsense is doing so out of habit. If the person you are addressing is BS'ing everything because it is to his advantage, then this will go on until the end of time (or at least until one of you gets tired). My step-father actually tried this once with a blowhard and just gave up at a certain point, because the blowhard appeared to have infinite energy for showing that he was "obviously correct".
    • They have their spin that their talking points are designed to get across

      I submit that neologisms like "spin" and "talking points" are just as evil and damaging to our language and the cultures it informs.
    • Actually, you'll never get rid of them, until you get rid of weasels. The human kind, I have no grudge against the kind that weigh less than 10 lbs.
  • Misread (Score:5, Funny)

    by schleyfox ( 826198 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @11:03AM (#13032967)
    I misread the "Newsweek article" as the "Newspeak article" and I was all like woah, damn dyslexia.
  • Apologists (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Profane MuthaFucka ( 574406 ) * <> on Monday July 11, 2005 @11:03AM (#13032974) Homepage Journal
    One time I spoke out very strongly about management speak. Synergy this, leverage that. Buzzword Bingo is not amusing when you see that someone can gain power by saying absolutely nothing at all.

    The counter argument was that it's the jargon of management. Just as programmers talk about arrays in a different sense than a layman, or maybe 'threading' for another example. Buzzwords isn't a problem, it's just the language of management.

    I think that's EXACTLY the problem. Managers don't talk to themselves. They lead with ideas, and understand the problems of others to help organize solutions. If nobody understands what the fuck they are saying, it's not management!

    • Re:Apologists (Score:5, Insightful)

      by smittyoneeach ( 243267 ) * on Monday July 11, 2005 @11:13AM (#13033096) Homepage Journal
      Buzzword Bingo is not amusing when you see that someone can gain power by saying absolutely nothing at all.
      You don't get it, do you?
      Big organizations are about elevating policy, procedure and process to religious levels, at the expense of common sense, accomplishment, and leadership.
      It's about maintaining the problem at all costs, a forget about fixing it.
      One either becomes reconciled to it, or departs.
    • Re:Apologists (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Boronx ( 228853 ) <{evonreis} {at} {}> on Monday July 11, 2005 @01:19PM (#13034312) Homepage Journal
      The BBC had a debate between a pro ID card pol and an anti ID card pol. The pro guy was asked whether making everyone carry an ID card would restrict their liberties. He said of course it would, but the benefits outway the risks.

      I was shocked. That man wouldn't last two seconds in American politics. Every American knows that you deny any negative fact no matter how obvious. Weasel words are part of the same problem. An aversion in America from speaking the truth in public.
      • Re:Apologists (Score:3, Interesting)

        by GPLDAN ( 732269 )
        As an American in a political job, I can attest to this. The rule is, essentially, never cop to anything. Always, always spin it back at them. The metaphor is tennis. Admit no error, or fault, or weakness, or tradeoff. Doube speak is the order of the day.

        If you do speak honestly, you are marginalized. Instantly. Welcome to the machine.
  • Christianity has always been expressed through the culture it lives in. It should be no suprise that some churches have visions and mission statements -- they want to succeed, and one model for success in America is the corporation.

    However, there is a backlash against this strict hierarchical structure, and as many traditional structures are being circumvented by new ways of doing things (blogs vs. old media, P2P vs. old music distribution, network vs. hierarchy, etc.), many churches will change to refl
  • bullshit bingo (Score:2, Informative)

    by Zatic ( 790028 )
    There is a way to actually have fun with these nonsense terms: tbingo/ []

    I tried this myself in business seminars, definitly works! It's better to have humorous people around, though.
  • by Alex P Keaton in da ( 882660 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @11:07AM (#13033007) Homepage
    The worst mission statements are the ones that are just so disconnected from reality- The ones that were dreamed up in a boardroom where no one had ever seem the manufacturimg facility. I bought a pair jeans and on the tag it said that "we strive to create the best most durable blah blah blah" and when I put them on, a button fell off....
    How about some honest ones- "We seek to have a complete monopoly on unreliable operating systems..."
    I love the ones that have nothing to do with the product... "Our mascara comany seeks to delight our customers, create world peace, and give out random orgasms...."
    • That was the motto a corporation I used to work for came up with. They meant that they are a people-first, family-oriented, nice company.

      It never seemed right to me, but I couldn't place the problem until recently, driving past a shell of one of their former buildings. Your vision is supposed to come from your values, which should be part of you. If your values come from your vision, that means that your guiding principles are a result of desires, which can change with the winds of economics.

      In their c
  • by lukewarmfusion ( 726141 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @11:07AM (#13033009) Homepage Journal
    I have a small business. I am realizing very quickly that success is often determined by your ability to communicate. (I'm also married, and this rule applies equally well to that.)

    If you can't clearly communicate to a client or customer, you can find yourself losing business very quickly. If the client thinks they're getting one thing and you deliver another, that's usually a breakdown on your part. The same goes for clients that don't understand what is required of them.

    Clear and concise gets the job done, makes everyone more comfortable, and takes less time than thick marketing copy or 'vision statements.'

    In my still-idealistic view of the world, that's how it works. I realize that some companies rely on obfuscation and meaningless text to confuse their customers into thinking they're getting one thing when the proposal says another. Or to lock people into contracts that they didn't understand (ie, zero interest for 12 months).

    But those aren't honest. And they don't encourage repeat business, referrals, or customer satisfaction. So in my mind, they don't promote success.
    • Good business is indeed all about communication. Kudos to your integrety (and what IS your small business if I may ask).

      However, in a world with a lot of bad business practices, communication gets quickly obscured. When most people are flinging BS, it's who flings the most convincing BS that wins.

      The point of the Weasel Words actually is not communication, however. The last thing way too many wordweasels want to do is actually say something.
    • Ahhh, but isn't the point of all the marketspeak to make it so that neither the customer nor the vendor even know what the expectations are?
    • In a market, people generally try to choose the best product at the lowest price. That means you have to know what the best product is as well as how much it's worth. Information is power.

      Well, if your product is chalk, then people aren't going to be willing to shell out £2.50 for a box of 30 chalk pills are they? So they sell you Settlers Tums instead of selling you chalk. Think of branding as economic disinformation.

      Exactly the same techniques are used in business management for exactly the same r
  • by NewbieProgrammerMan ( 558327 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @11:09AM (#13033028)
  • by nganju ( 821034 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @11:10AM (#13033049)

    If we're going to tackle this corporate jargon problem, team, we're going to have to leverage our core competencies. We're going have to be goal-oriented and results-driven.

    I say we kick off our anti-buzzword action plan by hitting the ground running. Now, who's going to own the mid-level implementation plan for this milestone?

    P.S. Props to Action Item, Superhero [] for inspiration.
  • Here are some corporate weasel words that I have come across that are not listed at the website.
    • Propel - "The new organizational structure will propel unprecedented gains in EBITDA performance."
    • Service Velocity - "We must seek to accellerate our service velcity to meet our customer's expectations."
    • Market Discontinuity - "The market discontinuities that now exist offer a unique opportunity for our company to increase marketshare and gain a lasting advantage over our competitors."
    • Delight the Customer -
  • by bleaknik ( 780571 ) <> on Monday July 11, 2005 @11:12AM (#13033074) Homepage Journal
    I'm looking at writing a mission statement for my own company, and the more I research it the more I appreciate existing ones.

    It does baffle me that churches have so much money, and I am a little afraid that God (TM) didn't intend it to be quite that way. I'm sorry (I have agnostic tendencies), if God exists I surely don't think (s)he intended for any church to be large enough to be considered a business. In fact it disgusts me that here in the United States many of the local religious figureheads drive nicer cars, own bigger houses, and smoke fatter cigars than myself. Men of God? Nay! Men of themselves.

    That said, I appreciate that (privately owned) schools have missions statements, and I appreciate that they are trying to serve their target. I think that every state-funded school in the state of (insert your region) should share a common mission statement. I think its also in their best interest to fulfill their goals as described by that mission statement.

    It has gotten out of hand. There was a time when Not-for-profit really meant Not-for-profit, and I see these "charitable" organizations seeming to crawl forward with beady-green-dollar-sign-eyes.

    Anyway. Mission statements are a wonderful invention and critical in this world known as capitalism. Bloody hell, though... why does the local minister drive a Lexus? /shrug.
  • by ras_b ( 193300 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @11:12AM (#13033076)
    this reminds me of something i saw when i used to work in corporate america. once before a company wide meeting, a friend/colleague handed me a sheet of paper with a grid of boxes on it- like a bingo board, but each box had a 'buzzword' in it- synergy, proactive, win-win, B2B, e-commerce, e-solutions, etc., etc. the goal was to mark off a word every time you heard it in a meeting. if you crossed off all the words in one row, column, or diagonally, you stand up and yell "BULLSHIT!". freakin' hilarious.
    • "the goal was to mark off a word every time you heard it in a meeting. if you crossed off all the words in one row, column, or diagonally, you stand up and yell "BULLSHIT!".

      They let you clean out your own desk, or did they take care of that for you?
    • by Ginnungagap42 ( 817075 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @12:00PM (#13033527)
      Shortly after being bought out by General Dynamics, a lot of us oldtimers at my former company played this frequently. The winning managerial statement was: "We must leverage our synergies..." Several people jumped up and yelled "Bullshit!" It was (to quote the parent) freakinng hilarious...
  • by Ranger ( 1783 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @11:16AM (#13033124) Homepage
    What a curios title, How Clichés, Weasel Words and Management-Speak are Strangling Public Language by Don "The Australian" Watson.

    Choking the chicken of discontent, are we? Well, if you've ever worked in a call center, weasel words (lies) and management speak (bullshit) are survival tools. Leverage them wisely.

    What would you hear if you crossed an Australian with a Canadian? G'day, eh. (OK. You think of a better question to make the answer funny!)

  • Wow, just like George Carlin. Only not funny!

  • by yagu ( 721525 ) <> on Monday July 11, 2005 @11:21AM (#13033175) Journal

    I don't know which came first, jargon-talk, or politically correct speech, but somewhere in the last thirty years, speech and writing has become more about saying something with empahis on:

    • not saying anything
    • not saying anything that could hurt someone's feelings or sensibilities
    • saying one thing but meaning something else
    • saying something with wiggle room for subsequent repudiation
    • saying something that wasn't asked for (not answering the question)

    Maybe, though I get slaughtered sometimes, that's why I like slashdot... slashdotters give as good as they take. And usually say what they mean, or at least try. Case in point, how simple could a mission statement (hate that term) be other than "News for Nerds. Stuff that matters." be?

    I jumped off the politcally correct band wagon years ago when two "corrections" juxtaposed themselves:

    1. An "instructor" in a sensitivity seminar (required by my company) stopped me mid-sentence after I used the term "black and white" and "corrected" it with "cut and dried". I argued a bit that the the difference between "black and white" and "cut and dried" (semantically) was, in fact, black and white, which of course she appreciated not at all.
    2. A memo arrived one day to all employees with a list of terms no longer allowed to be used in company writings, correspondence, etc. One term, "maiden voyage". Of course I couldn't get to my terminal soon enough to create some paper where I could work "maiden voyage" into the text.

    You all can fight back by using candid, frank, and direct language. But, you'll pay a price. Utlimately though I think you'll find it much more satisfying.

    • by SeanDuggan ( 732224 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @11:58AM (#13033508) Homepage Journal
      What really gets to me is when it's not even based upon the actual words, but upon the "fear someone might mishear." I'm sure everyone's heard about the politician who got lambasted for using the word niggardly. Then, in a play I was in last year, someone objected to an actor who had the line, "Don't get your knickers in a knot," because she was afraid someone would mishear the word, "knickers." *sigh* And it gets to you after a while. I actually find my self balking for a second before using "black" as a personal descriptor, so many people taking offense, seeing it as labelling.
    • Good. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kahei ( 466208 )

      Given that I have to say a lot of fairly boring things I would rather put some effort into giving what I say the qualities you describe than just blurt it out. It makes my day slightly more interesting and it reduces the chance of people getting pissed off, which makes me tired (I am old).

      So, while you're making a point of being 'candid, frank and direct' I'll be taking the extra five seconds to be polite, diplomatic and cautious. We'll see which strategy turns out to be more stressful.
  • When I was going to school all my writting requirements required one thing, Length. The more you write the better grade you get. They never focused on Spelling or Grammer or tried to gently guide me to writting well (Which I still cannot do). The more you wrote the smarter you are. So as these people get higher and higher up in buisness threw the natural process of Dieing and growing up. More and more exects will use more and more "Weasel Words" To fill up their papers and statments so they look like they
  • Productivity gains is where workers have to work longer hour for less money and produce more products/outcomes. Productivity gains has nothing to do with developing new technology or buying latest technology, machinery, hardware or even software, because industry cannot incur such costs to their bottom line. If industry did invest in such areas it would not achieve the mystical productivity gains.

    This isn't a criticism of language, it's just pissing and moaning. Well-applied technology can lead to more e
  • What bothers me about churches specifically - or, more to the point, about Organized Religion in general - more than the weasel words about their "missions" and "visions" and such, is the huge amount of "middle management" in their structure.

    To make an only somewhat bold and oversimplified assertion, we've seen the effects of the middle-management mentality in (among many other examples) the travesty that has been the Catholic church's handling of the sex-abusing priests: "Middle-management" shuffled most

  • by ferrocene ( 203243 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @11:27AM (#13033233) Journal
    Just the other day I was ranting to coworkers on how this lingo gets into everyday work.

    I was writing up a report and I was including the phrase "Solutions", but I forget what I was solving. Can't I just fix something anymore? Why do I have to deliver a solution?

    Issues and solutions, issues and solutions. I with I had an old-fashioned problem. I'd probably just fix it!
    • Our research group has "solutions" in its name, so when we redesigned and reorganized our web site 4 years ago, it seemed to make sense to include a section titled "solutions." There is also a section titled "our work," with the difference being that the work is a list of projects we've actually done and the "solutions" are categories showing the types of projects we can do.

      Looking at our web site usage stats for the past year, the work main page has been visited quite a bit and specific project pages have
    • You don't use the word "fix" because there is no such a thing as a problem. It is a challenge.
  • will always be with us. The expression "call a spade a spade" goes back to ancient Greek city states and what they thought of each others directness in speech.
    As long as you have to catch someone with your words, promote something with your pitch etc you will always have to make this choice: be honest and say up front "I'd like to make the following impression on you..." or be dishonest. The latter allows you to cover your hook with some bait of words: to use a vocabulary that obscures the nasty and disa
  • by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @11:36AM (#13033316) Journal
    It's really not the buzzwords so much as the matrix of meaningless in which they are embedded.

    For instance, I've seen the phrase "core competency" come up in this discussion a couple of times. I've actually adopted that one in all seriousness, though, because it is a valuable concept, especially in this time of outsourcing. (And remember, outsourcing doesn't just mean "to India"... a six-person company can't hardly afford not to outsource HR nowadays, and that is largely a good thing all the way around.) If you are in a company and you can't identify your core competencies, you're in trouble. If you try to outsource your core competencies, you might as well just pack up shop. And you ought to be wary about taking on things that don't play to your core competencies, and you ought to be careful about expanding them if you don't have the resources.

    But I use the term very specifically, and because there is no better replacement. The problem isn't that word specifically, it's when it gets buried in passive voice and slapped together with other "buzzwords" and ultimately stripped of all referents. "Core competency" is meaningless if you don't really know what it is, or it has no effect on the rest of the sentence/paragraph it is embedded in (i.e., the paragraph makes sense equally if your "core competency" is spinning cotton into thread or performing top-secret assassination missions). Generally, a "mission statement" ought to say outright what it is supposed to be.

    There are other similar buzzwords that if you dig into where they came from, there are valuable ideas there and there are a few others I use in all seriousness, even though I'm more an engineer than a manager. It's really more how they are used, abused, misunderstood, and (perhaps most importantly, as shown above) underspecified that really hurts.

    (Here, I'm talking about the traditional "buzzwords". This is a separate class from "words I use to say something without invoking the negative connotations", like "issue" for "problem". Those are basically indefensible.)
    • This has long been a problme with the management world. Not just in language, but in management fads. There are actually a few useful nuggets of information buried in things like TQM. But they can't be applied blindly or at random - you need to actually understand what you're doing.

      The same goes for "management speak". Many of these ideas began as useful things that helped a corporation get its act together. Understanding what your "core competencies" are is important. Defining your corporate "mission" rea

  • Just like 1334-speak is the tongue-stud and baggy pants of the English language, management buzz-words are the after-market spinner hubs on the engine of productivity. They convey movement and complexity where there is little or none, and distract the intellectually modest from having to think about what an organization actually does. Because, in a large organization, what it does is pretty complicated, and takes some actual depth of thought and a multi-minute attention span to comprehend and discuss.

  • From years of wading through corporate bullshit there are few piles that really stand out.

    Empowerment - We're cutting staff so we're enpowering those of you who are left to do their work and yours for the same pay.

    Right size - We're sending your jobs to Pakistan. If you're lucky we'll empower you to stay long enough to train your replacements.

    Disconnect - Any time you can't read the customer's mind and anticipate every boot-licking, petty request they might have. Enough disconnects and we'll right

  • I think all organizations ought to have a mission or vision statement. However, for many organizations, the role of these statements seems to have degraded into nothing more that PR/propoganda.

    The proper role of a mission statement is to assist in the decision-making process. It should serve as a set of criteria for evaluating options. By writing out your organization's goals in a concrete form, you hope to keep the organization focused on its original goals and values even though the leadership figures
  • Depreciation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @11:45AM (#13033393) Homepage Journal
    I like the corporate weasel culture. Because when I learn that some biz person is basing their "worldview" on some "business scientology" book, I just "write them off".
  • Any church that has to have a "mission statement" about their "core values" is in deep trouble. Their mission statement and core values should be readily apparent in their Bibles. Same for Synagogues and Mosques.
    • Re:Churches? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by raider_red ( 156642 )
      The mission statement for the Church is in the Bible:

      1. Love the Lord your God unconditionally
      2. Love your neighbor as yourself

      It seems like everything else the Church is supposed to do springs from those two commands.
  • by Fished ( 574624 ) <amphigory@ g m a i> on Monday July 11, 2005 @11:47AM (#13033411)
    The problem is not churches with mission statements, it's churches with mission statements that read like press releases. As a pastor, I've worked hard to get my church to adopt a mission statement so that I could then compare anything they want to do with the mission statement and eliminate a lot of the cruft. (Thus far, I haven't been able to get it through ... but the day is young. :)

    The problem, usually, is that everyone wants to keep these things generic, bland, and inoffensive. They shouldn't be. For an example of a good mission statement, consider this one I wrote for a computer store I'm a partner in:

    Mission: We will serve our customers with (1) top-quality service, (2) good advice and (3) fair business practices.
    No weasel words, no paradigms--shifting or otherwise--and no nonsense. What we mean by these terms is spelled out in our values statement (which I won't reproduce here.) Because I have this statement, I can hold my employees accountable to it.

    A mission or vision that nobody understands is worthless. But a good one is priceless.

    • by JoshWurzel ( 320371 ) on Tuesday July 12, 2005 @02:00AM (#13039733) Homepage
      Thus far, I haven't been able to get it

      I recommend "Spread the teachings of Christ. Preferrably without killing non-believers or touching little boys."

      Mission: We will serve our customers with (1) top-quality service, (2) good advice and (3) fair business practices.

      Like most mission statements, this isn't actually a statement of your mission. It is a statement of how you want to behave while on your mission. Try adding the word "computer" somewhere in that sentence so that people can get an idea of what you actually DO. This will help you eliminate the cruft. Otherwise you will be providing your customers with top-quality service in the field of malaysian sweatshop labor.

    • Mission: We will serve our customers with (1) top-quality service, (2) good advice and (3) fair business practices.

      No weasel words, no paradigms--shifting or otherwise--and no nonsense. What we mean by these terms is spelled out in our values statement (which I won't reproduce here.)

      You're a commercial enterprise in a capitalist society. Your first priority is therefore almost by definition to make profit. Why is that not in your mission statement?

  • by karlandtanya ( 601084 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @11:55AM (#13033482)
    Words are tools. The corporation uses tools in its own interests, not yours. In the case of the weasel words, the corporation presents an image with no substance.

    The purpose is to present an image to the casual observer. Words are selected for their appearance--"pro active", "standards compliant", "reorganization", etc. sound like action, consistency, and controlled change.

    But they mean nothing. That's intentional. The corporation does not want to offer its detractors any ammunition for future attacks. "You said that..." Well, actually, we didn't say anything of the sort. Did we?

    Do you seriously expect some organization to give you a clear commitment to anything without there being some significant benefit to them for doing so?

    It's inconsistent with the corporation's fiduciary responsibility (look that one up, it's a real thing) to act in that manner. That is to say, if a corporate leader does things because "it's the right thing to do for the world/the customers/the industry", rather than "it makes more money for the stockholders and exposes the corporation to less risk", then they violate that responsibility.

    At best, that violation is unethical. At worst, it's criminal.

    • by IgnoramusMaximus ( 692000 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @01:25PM (#13034381)
      It's inconsistent with the corporation's fiduciary responsibility (look that one up, it's a rear thing) to act in that manner.

      This "fiduciary responsibility" is in my opnion the main reason we should fear corporations -- like we do fear hungry lions. Amoral, besital and constantly looking for lunch.

      Therefore, the problem of twisted language used to hide the truth from the victims of the hungry corporate greed and lust for power is only a minor one when compared to the corporate influence over governments.

      I firmly believe that in order to save capitalism and the Western societies from themselves, one has to limit severely the size of businesses and remove the corporation as a structure from its current dominant place and restore it to its original purpose, as the "public charter" used to allow a group of small businesses to gang together temporarily to afford a large project.

      Having a greedy, narcisstic and amoral "persons" -- as the corporations are treated by the law of their own design -- is not in the interest of society at large, nor it is in the interest of the economic system known as "capitalism" since its main fuel is "competition", but gigiantic corporations are contrary to that.

  • Use of "Resources" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by saihung ( 19097 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @12:29PM (#13033829)
    I used to be a mid-level manager. I hate listening to people talking about "forces" (did you mean soldiers?) and "resources" (did you mean employees? workers?). I agree with Watson that this kind of talk is deeply dehumanizing.

    So at a monthly meeting, when my boss asked me if I needed more resources to complete a project, I said, "I don't think I need any more coal or lumber for this project. I could use some more people though." I think I nearly got fired that day.
  • by Tim Browse ( 9263 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @12:44PM (#13033970)
    For all right-thinking people in the UK, the epitome of this was the character of Gus in Drop the Dead Donkey [].

    A couple of my favourites:

    "Could you join me for a brief scuba in my thinktank?"

    "Can we pool our brainspaces in a centre of excellence?"

    More here []

  • by Shannon Love ( 705240 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @12:46PM (#13033989) Homepage
    It has been shown in psychology studies that people judge speakers who use longer sentences and who are difficult to understand as more intelligent than people who speak concisely. Especially in the case of authority figures, we tend to assume that the fault lays within our selves for not understanding their novel phrases or convoluted sentence structure. Like the parable of the "Emperor's New Clothes" people are afraid to admit they understand what the authority figure is talking about lest they be mocked by others.

    This phenomenon creates an incentive to create "management speak." People will be less likely to question you if you confuse them. People won't complain about being confused because they fear being called stupid.
  • by gr8_phk ( 621180 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @12:56PM (#13034085)
    The way to stop this nonsense is cleary to make wildass fun of it in a beer commercial. Remember all those idiots that used to say "what's up" in passing in the hallway? That all stopped after the WWHhhaazzzuuuuup beer commercials. If you make them feel like a jackass on a BEER commercial, they'll stop in short order. Or should I say: If you apply a poor quality rating to the suppliers deliverables in a widely accepted public forum, the resultant reconfiguration of the parameters is likely to change toward a positive outcome.
  • by WormholeFiend ( 674934 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @01:27PM (#13034415)
    I was biking around and I stopped for a cafeine refuel... decided to drink my cup inside thanks to the nice air-conditioning...

    There was a couple sitting at the table next to mine, the man was elaborating at length on some kind of organisational scheme, using the latest buzzwords. And his female companion seemed impressed!

    Having finished my drink, I stood up and asked the man: "You must work in HR, right?"

    He looked bemused, and said: "Yes. How did you know?"

    I just smiled and left.
  • My favorite (Score:5, Funny)

    by cfulmer ( 3166 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @02:33PM (#13035133) Homepage Journal
    Donating experienced personnel to the local job market.
  • Good quote (Score:3, Funny)

    by EvilStein ( 414640 ) < minus painter> on Monday July 11, 2005 @05:00PM (#13036670) Homepage
    "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit."

    How true it is.

"I have not the slightest confidence in 'spiritual manifestations.'" -- Robert G. Ingersoll