Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Note to Organizations: Give Truth a Chance

While we might choose to drop the word 'idiots" (we prefer to look at them merely as those as-yet-unconverted to the benefits of clear language), we nevertheless found much food for thought while recently flipping through a book by three veterans of the corporate jargon wars, Why Business People Speak Like Idiots--A Bullfighter's Guide. Here are a couple of especially illuminating outtakes:

'The first deadly sin: it's pride, and jargon is an all too-ready accomplice. Companies, and the idiots who occupy them, just can't seem to let their strengths speak for themselves. So they embellish and contour and augment things until they resemble one of those poor fools who's made one too many trips to the plastic surgeon. We found the following in Accenture's annual report, used to describe how they are 'differentiated in the marketplace':
· We harness deep industry, process and technology expertise and unrivaled large-scale, complex change capabilities.
· We seamlessly integrate consulting and outsourciing capabilities across the full life cycle of business transformation.
· We leverage our proprietary assets and global delivery networks for quality, speed and lower costs.
We're not sure what mirror they're looking in, but do they actually think this makes them look good? Get rid of all cosmetic language and give the truth a chance to come out and be seen.'

Or this:

'Just the facts, ma'am. When it comes to relevance, facts trump generalizations, because somehow these broad assertions have become the sign of your stature. If you know everyting, it's easy to generalize. If you know next to nothing, you can always come up with a sweeping statement about something. Here's a real excerpt from a real Fortune 500 CEO's message to the entire organization:

We continue to be recognized as one of the best places to work in America. Our Human Resources programs are being copied by others for their
innovation and effectiveness.

Yeah, right. Now here's the rub--what the executive was saying was true. This company is an HR leader. But how do you think this message was received? It probably wasn't. Instead, he should have demonstrated how this is true. Not through a boring recitation of mind-numbing statistics, but with a couple of stories that make the point. If the company was truly recognized as one of the best places to work, ther have to be some data to prove this. Third parties must have recognized the company. Internal surveys must reinforce it. If other companies are copying us, who are they? How do we know? Somewhere, somehow, the data must exist--otherwise the assertion is bogus. Back up the assertion with something real and tangible, or don't make it.'


At 8:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My parents say it best. Instead of going through the mission statement, the vision statement and all other statements of grandeur, when they are asked what their eldest son does, they reply, "He helps people." Most humbling.


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