The Curse of Management Speak and how to AVOID it


photo from the BBC website

“Set out to leave the first vapour trail in the blue-sky scenario.”
David Brent, The Office 

So now I have settled into sharing my thoughts on communications, I feel I am with friends and therefore will share my pet hate. Now I realise ‘HATE’ is a very strong word; a word I tell my children not to use, but  in this instance, I give myself permission.

It is my offering for ‘Room 101‘….. MANAGEMENT SPEAK

You know the stuff…the ‘blue sky thinking’ , the ‘thought shower’ ( apparently there was a time when ‘brain storm’ was considered offensive!), ‘pushing the envelope’!!!!!

REALLY ? I mean …..are you serious?

How can anyone keep a straight face when uttering these words? I’ve been in meetings where I have had to avert the eyes of fellow conspirators who also find the words amusing ( you know who you are !). I struggle to keep a straight face just LISTENING to them.  Now I am a professional woman, doing a professional job, but I do despair. My current ‘anti’ favourites are as follows:

  • the ‘burning platform’ – ok I get the concept, if there was a ‘burning platform’ you would have to do something about it, but for goodness sake , it sounds mad. Why not say ….’ we have to do something about XXXX and we need to do it now!’
  • the ‘straw-man’  – yes another one I understand, its an outline or a basic plan but other than in The ‘Wizard of Oz’, I have never come across a straw-man.
  • ‘end of play’...what ??? What does that mean exactly? I enjoy my job but I don’t play at it ?  We are not at school and have ‘playtime’.  Just tell me when you want whatever it is by? By 5:00pm, 5:30pm, or by 3:00pm so if needed, a hard copy can be posted somewhere ( the Post Office van comes early in our office).  JUST TELL ME  A DATE AND TIME – BE CLEAR!
  • ‘drill down’ …I do wonder if this has something to do with the ‘burning platform’? So you want me to ‘drill down’ ? Well I am no engineer but I will do my best to find out the detail you may need. But give me a pneumatic hand drill and I think you are asking for trouble.
  • ‘outside the box’  – I have not , other than as small child playing ( didn’t we all do this?) , been in a box. I will expect to be ‘in a box’ only when I pass to the next world! Do me a favour , we do not work in or out of boxes.
  • ‘light bulb moment’  – eh ?  Oh ! You mean you understand, you get it , not that , like a cartoon character, you will suddenly have light-bulbs appearing over your head. You are NOT in  ‘Tom  &  Jerry‘!
  • ‘blue sky thinking’ – I live in England…..a green and pleasant land. Why it is green? Because it often rains! We have many grey days with clouds but even so , my colleagues …(not ‘co-workers’) and I have managed to be creative even though we do not live in Bali… PLEASE STOP the ‘blue sky thinking’ stuff… doesnt work in good old Blighty!

Management speak does not make things clearer, it complicates, confuses and creates divisions in groups. It also often sounds really stupid. So , have I convinced you ? Do I get management speak into Room 101, or am I destined to be the ‘blue sky thinking’, ‘straw (wo)man’ , ‘pushing the envelope’ having a ‘lightbulb moment’ on the ‘burning platform’?

I will let you be my judge……but if you use those phrases, please do not be offended if you find this ‘co-worker’ in stitches.

You can also see my previous blog on 3LAs or ‘three letter acronyms ‘

As usual I suggest a track to go with my blog, what came to mind was the brilliant ‘Keep Talking’ by Pink Floyd. However most of their tracks are not on YouTube, but here is the beginning section of that track featuring the genius Stephen Hawkins. Very wise words.

The wonderful ‘ Everybody’s Talking at me !’ by Nilsson

another full track to enjoy ‘Ramble On‘ by Led Zeppelin

LINK to Guardian article


About Michaela Finegan

Passionate about the NHS and making it better; for patients and staff. An avid fan of social media with the belief that, along with social marketing, social media the potential to positively affect how we use the NHS and how it provides services to us. First love is music, spending as much time as possible at gigs and festivals. Enduring, everlasting love for my two beautiful sons. All views my own.
This entry was posted in call to action, communication, management speak and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Curse of Management Speak and how to AVOID it

  1. Karen says:

    A straw man is an informal fallacy. It’s even more painful that people don’t know that.

    • Michaela Firth says:

      Cheers Karen , Its a bit like the acronyms , they are more than one set of ‘letters’ and understanding . So more reason to use PLAIN ENGLISH

  2. Michaela Firth says:

    Reblogged this on Michaela Firth.

  3. Toni says:

    A big thank you for your blog.Really looking forward to read more. Really Cool.

  4. Sooper8 says:

    I am with you on this.

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