Jargon: Doubleplusgood or doubleplusungood?

It’s time for everyone to pull together, think outside the box, and work together on a shared vision that we can all buy into, which will enhance synergy and drive greater market penetration.

I’m currently teaching a group of DoSs (Directors of Studies) online and someone commented that most EL teachers will never accept or even listen to the terminology of management.  Words and expressions like many of those included above are ridiculed and laughed at.  As a manager, then, how to deal with this?  Is it a problem?  My answer is no…

Firstly I think we should forget the suggestion that is just an ELT issue.  Management speak is ridiculed and treated with deep cynicism everywhere.  Witness popular games like Bullshit Bingo, and TV shows like The Office.  There are a number of reasons for this – a healthy suspicion of “management” brought upon by previous bad experiences, a little bit of cultural cringe (particularly from non-US Americans of expressions thought of as American), a general mistrust of jargon, etc etc.  But, primarily, I think a lot of the problem comes with the suspicion that what these words represent are just hollow and empty concepts with no meaning that are just bandied around instead of actual ideas and concrete actions.  It’s this last problem which is the one we’re in a position to deal with.

Because what this mistrust forces us to do is to actually ensure that we are NOT talking in empty rhetoric and are actually using terms which are meaningful and valid.  This may mean that we actually have to change the terms themselves (by now words/expressions like win-win or vision may have become so devalued that they have become to all intents and purposes unusable), but it definitely means that managers have to make sure that they know what they’re arguing for.  Things like “shared vision”, for example, and “buy in” are not bad concepts just because the words are devalued.  In fact I’d argue that shared vision and buy in are extremely useful concepts. (There are however, words -like synergy, for example- which I do think are for the most part meaningless buzzwords, which really ought to be disposed of).

Forced to outline why shared vision is a good thing (whatever words you end up using to explain the concept and value), before starting to work on developing such a thing, enhances transparency, communication and openness, as well as making sure that the development work is fully understood by everyone. Who knows, it might even increase buy in 🙂

So, embrace cynicism.  It will make you a better manager, and will actually serve to make your organisation a better more open place, with greater understanding and clarity for everyone.

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