Management Speak

We're all familiar with the need to ensure our ducks are in rows, and have been assured of the terrible tyranny of corporate silos. Management speak is an odd metaphor-based lingo that changes rapidly and dives ever deeper into the realms of analogy and abstraction. It sounds like jargon, but it isn't. Where Jargon is a tool of efficiency and expediency 'management speak' has an altogether more sinister purpose.

Jargon can be pretty impenetrable but it's function is clear. It abbreviates communication with a high degree of accuracy, conveying principles and common situations in a couple of words rather than a couple of sentences. It's commonality with management speak is that it requires a good level of understanding in order to process and understand the information conveyed. Management speak however is more like slang; it's purpose is social. It does not convey condensed information. On the contrary it often requires more effort to communicate the same concept; which is more concise, 'distance' or 'clear blue water'? Both are metaphorical, only one is common management lingo. In fact, even with some level of understanding management speak of this kind can introduce unwanted ambiguity, and if you're not familiar at all then it is actually nonsensical at times.

Management speak seeks only to reinforce social exclusivity, it is vague and impenetrable only for the purpose of servicing a sense of superiority. It spreads by peer pressure even amongst people who recognise it's self-defeating nature. It changes frequently to ensure that only those in the right social strata are privy to the latest, most up to date buzz-phrases because while knowledge is relatively exclusive it's dissemination is a reminder of the social hierarchy.

Sound crazy? It isn't. We were all quite familiar with this state of affairs with schoolyard slang, and the teasing and ridicule that came with being out of the loop. It's no grand conspiracy, it's automatic human behaviour. The next time you encounter a new buzz-phrase consider where it came from, and whom is using it to talk to whom.