Monday, December 20, 2010

2010's worst jargon

Interesting story in last Friday's Financial Review  by Joanna Mather on the latest English jargon. Each year there is a wave of new business jargon. However, the monitoring done by the Plain English Foundation suggests that 2010 was special. After all, this was that a phrase long abandoned by the business community, "moving forward", was adopted by Julia Gillard!

"Thought showers", "repurposing" and and "cascade" were the emerging jargon of 2010. Another term, "key take-outs", may not be new, but seems to to have had new life, even appearing in job advertisements. Let me unpack this for you, to use another 2010 term.

Unpack, the article suggests, means to explain. Columnist David Astle is quoted as saying that there has been more unpacking going on than at a scout's jamboree. I do use this word, but in the sense of disentangling rather than explanation. I also use it in the very specific context of a topic whose component parts cannot be easily seen; discussion focuses on the case, not the content.

The Foundation suggests that 2010's worst jargon, not all new, included:

  • KPIs. Short for key performance indicators. As abrasive as "key result areas" or KRAs. This one is obviously not new, but remains all pervasive. And slippery.
  • granularity. Replaces drill down, We're now required to examine things with a high level of granularity. I have wondered about this one which seems to be especially popular with CEOs. It seems to carry the connotation of paying attention to detail, with the implication that this had not previously been happening. Maybe a case for revising KPIs and KRAs?
  • disintermediate. Economists term meaning cut out the middle-man.
  • Julia's moving forward.
  • Cascade. To communicate. As in information needs to cascade through the organisation. I have used this one, but in the very specific sense to describe a process of communication.
  • Thought showers replaces brainstorm. Ugly, very ugly.
  • Repurpose. To recycle. Rather than something being recycled, it is repurposed. Mmm. I'm not sure this fully captures the meaning, but then I've never been sure just what the word means anyway.
  • Strategic staircase. Replaces the tautology forward plan with something even worse. I do use the term forward plan, maybe I shouldn't, but I have no idea really what strategic staircase means.

Apparently, "artefact" is one emerging piece of jargon that we need to watch for, with one telco already fond of artefacting. According to David Astle, you need to create a trail of evidence to show that you are actioning something. You need to create artefacts, tangible evidence that you are on the case.

Well, what can I say on this one other than noting that the most common way I use the word is a physical objective dug up out of the ground, as in artefacts from the Minoan period? Does this mean that the telco in question is mummifying, preparing its business for internment and later discovery by some business archeologist?          

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