webofevil: (Default)
The coroner at the inquests into the 52 deaths at the London suicide bombings accused emergency services chiefs of using too much jargon, adding that frontline workers might not understand the "management speak" used or the role of a counterpart at an emergency scene.

Lady Justice Hallett unleashed her frustration at Gary Reason, the assistant commissioner of London Fire Brigade, on the final day of evidence, after five months of daily sittings and hearing from more than 300 witnesses, referring to the consistent use of "management speak" throughout the inquest.

On the term "conference demountable unit", used to describe a portable incident room, she said: "As far as I can tell, management jargon is taking over organisations and perfectly sensible, straightforward titles are being changed.

"This isn't just somebody being pedantic about the use of English, which it appears to be… when it comes to managing incidents, people don't understand what the other person is. I don't know whether a crew manager is somebody who is responsible for supplies or is used to fighting fires. I have no idea."

Clarity was key when crews were trying to establish events and authority at a disaster scene, added Hallett, who is the assistant deputy coroner for inner west London district. "What worries me is all you senior people of these organisations are allowing yourselves to be taken over by management jargon and… I just think that you people at the top need to say, we have to communicate with people in plain English."

She added: "I'm sorry if that sounded like a rant but everybody who has been here for the last few months will know I've been building up to it." [Guardian]
webofevil: (ogc)
MPs have said the 18-month-old Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills “has not yet found its feet” and may take decades to make an impact. A select committee said its annual report showed signs of relying on jargon as a substitute for having a clear idea where it was going.

The committee responsible for scrutinising the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Dius) described the annual report produced by the department last May as “written in an impenetrable style and ... peppered with jargon, unsupported assumptions and claims designed to promote Dius”. As a result its report had been “unhelpful” and too reliant on promoting a positive tone rather than providing clear and comprehensive information. The MPs said they suspected this had been in part because the results of Dius’s work “may take years, if not decades, to realize”. [BBC]
MPs tend to have extremely high tolerance levels for vapid jargon. If they’re telling you that you’ve overdone it and accuse you of hiding behind it, it’s time to ask yourself some serious questions. Not that you’ll be able to understand them.
webofevil: (Default)
Matthew Parris in today’s Times
Last week I cited a Department for Work and Pensions list of its myriad heads of “communications”, “strategic communications”, “communication operations” etc. This has prompted a reader to send me a full-page newspaper advertisement, describing situations vacant in the Commission for Equality and Human Rights.

It advertises the positions of 13 different Directors (“Salaries £55,000- -80,000”): a Director of Policy, of Foresight, of Research, of the Disability Programme, of Business Planning, of the Commissioners' Office, of Legal Policy, of Legal Enforcement, of Corporate Law and Governance, of Information Management, of External Affairs, of Stakeholder Management and of the English Regions.

What is “stakeholder management”? What is “information management”? What does a “Director of Foresight” do? Why is there no Director of Hindsight? Why does the CEHR want a “Director of External Affairs”—are quangos now to maintain embassies abroad?

Well, each job is described. All require (the ad says) “strategic vision”, the Disability Director being required to “lead and direct a portfolio of strategic policy projects” (as well as “deliver the CEHR's mandate and cross-strand approach”), while the Director of Business Planning is “developing” “strategic policy projects”, and the Foresight Director is busy identifying “key strategic objectives”.

The Director of the Commissioners’ Office, meanwhile “will fill a strategic role”; the Legal Policy Director (“working closely with external stakeholders”) will “build strategic relationships” while “leading the development” of a “legal strategy”; and the Legal Enforcement Director will ensure the CEHR “meets [its] strategic objectives”. In a text no longer than this column, one clutch of vacuities occurs again and again:

strategy/strategic: 8

policy: 9

manage/management: 10

lead/leadership: 8

relationship/s: 5

build/develop/build and develop: 12

co-ordinate: 3

stakeholders: 4

The landscape is littered with “goals”, “objectives”, and “targets”. An insane climax is reached in the description of the Director of Stakeholder Management's role: “You will help build and develop the external face of the CEHR [though the External Affairs Director “will have a unique opportunity to build and develop the external face of the CEHR”] as an accessible, ambitious organisation. Key tasks will include co-ordinating stakeholder relationships... whilst co-ordinating a process that categorises relationships... You will also establish relationship management objectives and goals.”

On what planet, in what galaxy, in which cosmos do these people live? Is theirs an internal language, known only to a priesthood? Does the language mean anything to them? An entire segment of our fellow citizens is spinning off into a kind of linguistic oblivion, leaving us, gaping and bewildered, behind.
The first comment on the column:
I spent a while (a long time ago) working in recruitment advertising. I soon found out that the point of a job ad is not to describe the job in detail, in case you put people off. The idea is to 'sell' the role by creating a kind of verbal mood music. Words like ‘strategic’, ‘leadership’ and ‘stakeholders’ are designed not to communicate information, but to signal that this is a vaguely senior role in which you’ll be taken quite seriously. Public sector organisations use them a lot, thinking this will prove that they are modern, thrusting businesses.

I got out of recruitment advertising quickly.

The Cabinet Office human resources strategy


Feb. 27th, 2007 04:54 pm
webofevil: (kite)
Lord Adonis just used the word “strategy” (or “strategies”) 10 times in 57 seconds. That’s a shitload of strategy. I’m at the stage where the word has ceased to have what tattered remnants of meaning it had left after the civil swervice (typo, but stet) had already ravaged it. It’s now just a collection of empty syllables. Strategy, strategy, strategy, strategy. Straaaaategyyyyyy. Nope, it’s gone. The word is dead to me.
webofevil: (grrr)
Written Answer, 3 June 2006

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will refrain from using the word "stakeholder" in all official Government reports and other publications for which they are responsible.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: "Stakeholder" is a commonly used word with an established meaning, both within Government and in the private sector. The wording of government reports and publications is a matter for the relevant department.
webofevil: (deck the halls)
It’s one thing to be aware that Labour ministers insist on dubbing us all “clients” or “customers”—including people they want to force to carry ID cards and people arrested by the police—but it’s quite another actually to sit in the same room and hear them use this flesh-crawling anaesthetic language in person, in cold blood. Watching Lord Hunt of Kings Heath casually refer to benefit claimants as “clients and customers” was akin to seeing your first gory road accident, or your first flasher.


May. 13th, 2005 04:26 pm
webofevil: (Default)
Although I now can’t find a reference to it, I’ll swear that, somewhere in the coverage of the fury over US soldiers’ apparent desecration of the Qur’an as part of their “enhanced interrogation” techniques at Guantanamo, I saw a quote from a senior soldier at Camp X-Ray saying that “We are investigating these claims, and if we find that they are true we will be changing our procedures”.

To anyone who isn’t a native English speaker, it may not be immediately clear that this phrase actually means “I’m not sorry and you can’t touch me; now piss off and leave me alone”, as used most often on consumerama perennial Watchdog by shady numpties who’ve been caught with their hands in the till (or things other than tills) (or things other than hands).

I’m not particularly having a punt at the American military here [listen closely and you’ll hear [livejournal.com profile] strictlytrue's eyebrow raise]; rather, I’m excited that this latest usage of this feisty little phrase will raise its profile even further. Here’s a typical example from the archives:

Police were critical last night after the Yorkshire Ripper frenziedly attacked and killed another prostitute. “It is regrettable that Mr Ripper has chosen to pursue this course,” said Chief Constable Ronald Gregory. In a statement released to the press, the Ripper replied: “I have taken on board the criticisms made by the police, and I assure them that I will be reviewing my procedures.”

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