Monday, June 16, 2008

Going forward

Looking at Facebook today, I saw a reference to this superb article on business speak, citing going forward as one of the main offenders. In an earlier post I referred to my particular bugbears, which include robust, core values and high end. However, I wasn't able to mention the ones that were used at Waterstone's, so here's a list of some of the nonsense I had to put up with when I worked for them:

Easy wins
Big piece of work
Brand wheel
Managing expectations
Space planning
Heads up
Four quadrants

One of the reasons I went into bookselling was to get away from the world of ball park figures, team building and rebranding. When I left university I briefly worked for a market research company and used to spend my lunch hours in the local pub, listening to businessmen talking in their nasal 'Estuary' accents. I couldn't believe that these smartly dressed, well-paid people could get away with talking so much crap and resolved that I would never work anywhere where business speak was used.

I succeeded for many years and although the price was a relatively low salary, it was one worth paying. Then Waterstone's took over Ottakar's and I suddenly found myself in a world of brand wheels (think of the Buddhist Wheel of Life, but one designed by an idiot), managing expectations (saying no, in other words) and big pieces of work (i.e. overwork). Also, the managing director's weekly message always ended with the phrase 'Good trading.' Yuk. This was a retail culture rather than a bookselling one, as demonstrated by a rumoured memo that said 'When are Ottakar's managers going to realise that they are retailers, not booksellers.'

I am not against new phrases if they serve a purpose. The verb parenting might be annoying, but it was invented because there was no single word for the act of being a parent (as far as I know). However in the business world, too many people abuse the English language in order to obfuscate the truth and lend an air of importance to mundane, everyday actions.

How can we fight business speak? I have always found ridicule to be a useful weapon, but as this isn't always practical in the workplace the best alternative is to always employ plain English. This isn't always as easy as it sounds, because so many buzzwords have been invented to conceal an unpalatable truth.

Going forward, I think we should fast track a more robust agenda which tackles these issues head on because at the end of the day, it's not rocket science. Know what I mean?

STOP PRESS! The BBC website has now published a Top50 of Business Speak, submitted by their readers. It's well worth a look. It included two that I'd forgotten to mention: cascade and end of play.


John Self said...

I think we're both singing from the same hymn sheet.

bye bye bellulah said...

I hate Cascade. Cascade it down to the shopfloor - ugh.

Steerforth said...

I'd forgotten about 'cascading'. What utter crap! Who are these people who come up with nonsense like this?

The Poet Laura-eate said...

It's all to disguise how crap things really are and the fact you're not getting that pay rise after all!

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Superb posting by the way - couldn't agree more!