Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Corporate WankSpeak Uber Alles

Back in the good old days, when I used to do something useful for a living, I had what I considered to be a healthy distaste, nay hatred, for jargon. I think it stemmed mainly from the fact that, as a welfare rights adviser, I had to translate preposterously complicated rules into a format that the average Joe/Josephine on the street would understand.

Drafting leaflets was particularly difficult because you have limited space, the person you are trying to help has gone away with their leaflet and can't ask you to clarify a point or tell them what DLA stands for. You also have to balance that with the fact that it is quite possible to simplify information to the point that what you are telling them is not just inadequate but has actually reached the point of being wrong.

On moving into management, I instinctively saw no reason to change this approach. After all you are still trying to get a message across to someone about what they need to do or know about. When I was still at Leicester I went to a meeting which was supposed to be a kind of touchy feely departmental show-and-tell thing. Heads of Service (i.e. managers who were at least a grade or two above me) all did presentations and I've never heard so many three and four word acronyms in my life. I sat there wondering if the people talking were aware that half their audience had no idea what they were going on about or perhaps were doing it deliberately because it made them feel clever.

I then studied for a management qualification (Professional Certificate in Management at the Open Uni seeing as you ask. Oh sorry, you didn't) and the course was refreshingly free of jargon. I found this encouraging and resolved to stick with the jargon free approach. As time went on I not only became more certain that the main reason for most people using jargon was not just about making themselves appear clever (in their minds) but to hide the fact that they were often thick as pigshit and had little or no idea what they were talking about.

Anyway, the purpose of this preamble is to try and give you some idea why this report made me so spitting angry and nearly lose the will to live. That and maybe that my leg is still in plaster and the anti-depressants have run out.

To save you some time it's formal title is -

'Communications and Marketing - Efficiency and Ensuring Value for Money - savings Made in Recent Years and the Introduction of a New Budget and Spend Prioritisation Model'. 

It's written by the Director of Communications Stephen Barker, presumably on a rare moment away from posting videos of his staff on the internet. Note the use of the words 'prioritisation' and 'model'; I'm not claiming to be scientific but in my view these words tend to be reliable indicators that you are about to be drowned in bullshit. If you take one thing home with you from this, that's my tip of the day.

That ear-splitting 'arooga' noise you can hear is the 'NCCLols Translation Service' emergency alarm going off so I'd better quickly pass on the results of putting the above through our patented process. Essentially the report's true title is -

'Why it is Only Right and Proper to Take Money Away From Individual Comms Budgets and Give it to Me - I get to Keep My Empire Intact - Everyone Else Can Fuck Off'.

The BS just gets worse. Check this out from para 2.1 -

"It has not proven practicable to achieve a saving of £100k pa via committees becoming paperless during 2009/10 due to a more elongated new technology adoption profile being required."

I'm sorry, "...a more elongated new technology adoption profile..."?

NCCLols translation service -

"I could just have said that it's taken a bit longer to show councillors where the computer 'on' button is but the word 'elongated' gives me a bit of a shudder."

And get these -

"This model can result in bottom up – rather than priority-driven - spend prioritisation..."

"Pulling all Communications & Marketing budgets currently held by service teams...together and under the control of Communications & Marketing...will enable priority-driven prioritisation of communications spend in line with the Council Plan and The Nottingham Plan..."

What the fuck are you talking about with your 'priority driven prioritisations'?* What other kind of 'prioritisations' are there if not 'priority driven'? We don't need to qualify 'arse scratching' with 'arse driven'.

Remember, this is the Director of Communications here, in other words somebody who should be able to string a sentence together. Don't get me wrong, I don't claim to be the greatest communicator in the world, I like to think I do ok given enough time but 'priority driven prioritisation'? Is it just me?

No doubt the councillors on the 'Overview and Scrutiny Committee' will read the report, nod sagely at the need for further elongation of their new technology profiles and ignore the voices screaming in their heads that it's all bollocks. The report will be 'noted' and everyone will go home secure in the feeling of a job well done.

* Just in case anyone is wondering or perhaps thinking that I'm just being a bit thick, what I think Stephen is trying to tell us here is that individual services are setting their own 'prioritisations' which are not necessarily in line with the big grown up corporate priorities - and so aren't properly 'priority-driven'. Essentially, what I'm saying here is that he could have been a bit clearer about that.


Anonymous said...

This is exactly the bollocks that the LGA was trying to address back in March (http://bit.ly/b07JXo).

I have some experience of the City Council's internal and external communications. They are, almost exclusively, without any parallel, anywhere for their inefficiency and ineffectiveness.

Andy said...

Tell me about it.

I used to work there and the place was utterly jargon packed. I do think 'priority driven prioritisations' presents a new low point though.