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Archive for January, 2007

Challenging issues around the management jargon agenda

Posted by Andrew Cooper on January 3, 2007

I’ve always had a bit of a thing about management jargon, so it’s good to see that yet another survey has been published to bring us up to date with the latest inanities. I’ll add a link to the survey (by Office Angels) when I can find one, but in the meantime ‘Thought Grenade’ is a new one on me as is ‘Let’s sunset that’ which refers, apparently, to ideas that should never see the light of day.

I once wrote a complete Consultantese/English dictionary, simply because it’s so easy to make fun of this sort of thing. But there’s an important point here. Jargon, particularly management jargon, often gets in the way of clear thinking. The use of ‘issues’ (as in ‘issues around’) is still my least favourite example of the genre: its usually refers to what, in plain English, we’d call ‘problems’. Challenging issues are, of course, major – if not insuperable – problems.

The psychology of all this is interesting. Why refer to issues rather than problems? Its probably to do with the fact that admitting that you – or your organisation – has a ‘problem’ is seen as a Bad Thing, not least because you shouldn’t have allowed them to occur in the first place.

My favourite recent example of the issues thing was contained in an email I received last year which apologised for the fact that I’d been unable to phone the organisation in question because they had been ‘experiencing issues around their telephone system’. In other words, it wasn’t working. Thankfully I received another email later in the day to explain that the ‘issues’ had been ‘resolved’. Perhaps they’d provided the wayward telephone exchange with a course of counselling, rather than a new circuit board?

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Free will, or not free will, that is the question

Posted by Andrew Cooper on January 3, 2007

If you decide not to click on this link to an excellent New York Times article on the subject, will you be exercising free will? It puts new year’s resolutions in a whole new light.

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Meetings, bloody meetings

Posted by Andrew Cooper on January 2, 2007

Meetings are, to my mind, the ultimate necessary evil. It’s not that I don’t like meeting people – I do. People are great – all of my best friends are people. It’s Meetings with agendas, minutes etc. that fall into the ‘necessary evil’ category rather than, say, meetings in pubs which are an entirely different thing. I sometimes wonder how Meetings (as opposed to meetings) evolved. There must have been a point in human history when this happened, and it was probably about 5,500 years ago when writing was invented because before then it would have been very difficult to take minutes or write agendas. Until then, all meetings must have been a bit like meetings in pubs. Those involved in each of those proto-Meetings probably thought that they’d solved the problem of life, the universe and everything but because they weren’t able to write, their next meeting covered pretty much the same ground as all previous meetings. Result: we spent about 50-80,000  years of our species’ time on this planet not making a great deal of progress.

Even more intriguing than that 45,000 year plus year writing-free gap, is what’s happened on the writing front in my lifetime. In 1973, when I started my first job (four years after the first members of our species landed on the Moon) the height of writing sophistication was the electric typewriter.  And not everyone was allowed to operate those. Instead, there was a ‘typing pool’ in which women (they were all women) turned my hand-written minutes of Meetings into neatly typed notes.

Now, a blink of an eye later in terms of human history, I’m able not only to ‘type’ these immortal words myself but I’m also – with a click of a mouse – make them available to anyone in the world who has a computer connected to the internet.

How on earth did that happen?

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