What we have here is a failure to communicate
To succeed in business you need to be able to communicate. Here we go again, you say to yourself. Blame everything on a lack of communication. But I’m not generalising. I’m talking about one of the greatest barriers to communication in business - the use of jargon and clichés.
Take benchmarking, re-engineering, change management and downsizing for instance. Beware! I’ve found a direct correlation between the number of such words that pepper a person’s conversation, and that individual’s lack of insight into what makes business tick. Use of jargon is usually a strong indication of someone’s ability to really communicate effectively. To rank among the successful in business, you need to be able to express yourself on any subject using plain, simple English.
How many words are used just because they sound impressive? Jargon is often the invention of people who cannot express themselves simply. Or sometimes it’s just plain dishonest. I mean “downsizing” sounds so much better than “lets fire a whole bunch of people of people who aren’t fully occupied so that we stand a better chance of surviving And ‘change management’ adds an air of sophistication to the process of telling them that “things aren’t going to be the same around here” We don’t train people to do the job anymore, we empower them.
And it’s not even good enough to simply be a manager anymore. You need to be a leader. Why? Because the corporate sector is no longer able to create or maintain the number of jobs that it used to 20 years ago. And as the surviving managers lose their grip on organisations, we now have “learning” organisations where people empower themselves. Do you understand what it’s all about? Neither do I, but you hear it all the time. Oh, for the good old days when you could fire the bastards who fouled up or didn’t work.
There was a time when the favourite homily of company chairmen (chairpeople?) was “our employees are our greatest asset” Now it’s ‘our aim to maximise shareholder wealth’. Of course to do that, you have to downsize rightsize and re-engineer. Now, I’m not against making profits, and big ones at that, but let’s stop hiding the realities behind a wall of obscure language. The ‘workers’ certainly don’t understand what the hell is meant by benchmarking. And I’m not sure that I do. Maybe it’s because I don’t have an integrated, transitional flexibility. Or maybe my balanced incremental time-frame does not have a responsive, modular capability. Please!
The most effective management concept is still the will known Kiss - keep it simple, stupid. So lets stop saying ‘this point in time’, when we mean ‘now’. And let's stop talking about ‘key performance areas’ when we mean ‘what people have to do to get the job done’. And then there’s the ultimate. People who say, ‘the fact of the matter is’, when they are about to give you their biased, unproved views on some topic about which, at best, they are on shaky ground, but more often then not, completely ignorant.
The change that we need to manage the most, is a change in business language. This will require intellectual honesty - difficult for some, but with tremendous benefits for all. We need to get back to saying what we mean, in simple English. That way everyone will understand what we’re trying to put across, and best of all, so will we.
Remember that the most important aspect to communication is listening. Have the courage to stop the major-league bullshitters in their tracks with the magic words, “I don’t understand, what exactly you mean by that?”