Management Talk Awareness Week

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

We are nearly at the end of 2011 and another year of mayhem behind. We will be judging our 2011 Non-Predictions and trying to dream up some new ones for 2012 in the next fortnight or so but this week we have been able to get some long needed admin done. With it came a realisation that even if the financial industry is suffering the creative management community has been in full swing dreaming up new terms and phrases to camouflage the blindingly obvious. The evolution of ‘management speak’ means some phrases die and some survive and flourish. TMM really don't know what determines the success of one term or phrase over another other than, as with the arts, adoption and patronage by the most respected in the field. TMM hope that this year’s rash of newcomers all die off naturally but we would like to help with a shove into their deserved obscurity.

TMM have noticed that every cause nowadays needs an "Awareness" campaign and though we feel that "doing" is of much greater importance than "awaring", we will go along with the fashion and launch a Management Talk Awareness Week with the list of phrases and terms we have found most irksome this year.

So here are TMM's top ten annoying phrases of 2011 (even if some are older) that we would like to see the back of.

10 - Internalise - As in "What you have all failed to internalise is that there has been a paradigm shift. As a result you are all now behind the curve when it comes to the multi-lateral interoperability needed to realise the supra-organisational mission statement”. Even though there is an awful lot to detest in that statement "Internalise" is the word we most object to. It appears to just mean learn or remember but as telling someone to learn or remember something appears instructive, suggesting they internalise it will sound more empathetic, but at the severe cost of sounding like a clone-monkey.

9 - Hi, I hope all is well - With the birth of the email there came an awkward period when the formality of letters, with their "Dear Sir / Yours sincerely" had to be detuned to fit in with the new immediacy and informality. After a stuttering start the world passed through an embarrassed joint squirm and settled on "Hi" for anything other than legal representations. But 2011 has seen a pernicious ingress of a new form of insincerity with the addition of "I hope all is well" to the "Hi". Rather than questioning either the validity or sincerity of that statement, we would just ask that the bulk senders of such missives consider where they are sent to, as for many recipients things are blindingly obviously not well. We suggest the only time this greeting is appropriate is when addressed to bore-hole companies.

8 - Weaponise price opacity - As the scarcity of new Himalayan Pink Salt in the financial market takes its toll on the bottom lines of financial institutions it is becoming more important for them to make sure that they maximise the profitability of existing basic products. Opacity of price is critical in this process but weaponising it? Wow.

7 - Ideation - What happened to good old "have a think" or "come up with some ideas"? Even running things up flag poles is less irksome than "ideation" which sounds as though it should involve radioactive iodine.

6 - Stakeholder Community - Not a Transylvanian village but the new plural of stakeholder. Theoretically a stakeholder is anyone who can affect or is affected by your decisions and so could be a lowly minion in your company, but deference only ever seems to be made to "stakeholders" when they are either your bosses, investors or regulators. Please let's call them who they really are.

5 - Socialise - When issues got out of hand in the old days you would normally either just tell the boss or perhaps "take it upstairs". But now a cunning adaptation of the old mantra of "My profit, our loss" has invoked a caring sharing attitude to screw-ups by "socialising" them. As in "I think we should socialise this issue with senior management and the stakeholder community".

4 - Complementary - Odd one this, and it's really down to our own stupidity, but we have regularly opened emails this year expecting some nice free service only to re-read it and find it's not "complimentary" but something expensive and homeopathic. We expect the marketing world to soon be jumping on this and emailing multitudes of complementary not-at-all-free offers. Such as Ryan-Air offering "Complementary Flights" which sound as though they are free but are actually expensive and just "complement" what a decent service should be by being dreadful. Or have they done that already? "Complementary" should be banned from subject lines so that the vaguely dyslexic amongst us shouldn't be taken advantage of.

3 - Bandwidth - The adoption of IT geeky words into mainstream fashion is nothing new but the latest over-usage of "Bandwidth" by management is particularly grating. Just as "spending more time with my family" has become the acceptable expression of "Just been fired/stiffed/shafted/backstabbed/found out but have photos" so has "I'm sorry I can't action that, I don't have the bandwidth” become the generic replacement for "I don't have the time/resources/authority or inclination". But the saddest part is the way it's used under the false allusion that "bandwidth" is new and fashionable. Our grandmothers, thanks to broadband adverts and home routers, know what bandwidth is so please, unless you are the type of person who still uses "groovy" in the boardroom, please drop "bandwidth".

2 - Geosourcing - Why you lose your job to someone in a different part of the world. "The support function has been geosourced" or "How's the front office geosourcing project going?” It's the sharp end of a simple belief of ours that if there is someone able and willing to do your job for less than you, you are toast. But the use of "geo", which has connotations of environmental friendliness married to "source", which conjures images of babbling fresh springs in the mountains, results in a super-eco word which actually means "You're fired".

1 - Reaching out - TMM first came across 2011's winning term in July and since then it has spread like wildfire, which has us looking like Irish Riverdancers as we try to stamp it out as fast as we can. The origins and epidemiology of this disease has us suspecting it's the product of some Class of 2011 Management School somewhere. It really is complete and utter rubbish. If you are about to call an investor for some documents you don't "reach out to the client", you phone or mail them. If you want to know why a trade hasn't settled you don't "Reach out to Bangalore" you "call back-office". So let's just kill that one right now before someone gets accused of molestation.

And with that we open up "Management Talk Awareness Week". We are sure you all have your own experiences to share and we look forward to the comments column acting as a joint cognitive pan-cohesual empathy forum leading to textualisation of common goal and achievement recognition programs.

Happy New Year


If this post helped you, please help them. TMM's Xmas Charity Appeal:

Posted by Polemic at 7:18 PM  


You guys rock! Weaponise price opacity. Really gives the idea of a greedy head trader looking for revenues.

Anonymous said...
8:17 PM  


If this post helped you, please help them. TMM's Xmas Charity Appeal:

Anonymous said...
9:20 PM  

Good point anon, thanks so much ..
.. I'll add that at the bottom ..

Polemic said...
9:23 PM  

These are not management speak, per se, but they are the overused products of the Cliché Brothers.

My nomination would be Headwinds (aka Challenges), which often emanated out of Yoorp.

As in, bloody obvious stuff (in retrospect) that I didn't think of before, that are now "faced" by my investment vehicles, and by extension, my investors.

A lot of investors will soon be hearing that their US centric and EM/commodity-obsessed hedge fund managers "temporarily under-performed our benchmark" due to "headwinds" out of Yoorp. In other words, they lost money in '11.

Another thing I got tired of hearing in 2011 was "Duration Risk", usually spouted over the spring and summer by reflationistas and money managers who completely missed the huge move in the US long bond and therefore missed out on making a pile, even as they locked in equity risk - for the duration, as it were.

Leftback said...
9:34 PM  

Oh I Seee !! You meant that charity thing was the most annoying phrase of 2011? Duh, irony, and i missed it.. !

Polemic said...
9:46 PM  
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Ruby Claire said...
5:05 AM  
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Ruby Claire said...
5:05 AM  

One thing ive heard a lot this year is "in this environment" which has become the stock term to caveat any investment given current market conditions which are uncertain - read "s**t"

Phototropic said...
10:22 AM  

"Circle back"


"Share of wallet"

All heard spouting from a second rate investment bank ad nauseum this past year

Rossco said...
10:59 AM  

The perfect antidote to "Management Talk" is a free sub to Scott Adams's Dilbert cartoon

Clive Hale said...
11:19 AM  

reach out is an americanism. i first came across it when i moved to nyc in 2005. amazed it's taken so long to find its way to you. and yes, it was just a little bit weird although disturbingly you may find yourself slipping into using it. :$

Anonymous said...
3:11 PM  

social marketing - posting useless drivel on twitter and adding ''like'' buttons .. ..

abee crombie said...
3:45 PM  

'Granularity of transparency' - not brand new, but pretty hard to dislodge from the all-time top ten.

Charles Butler said...
4:43 PM  

Out here in a large company in Silicon Valley, we need to make bandwidth available, because it is definitely important to socialize whatever we are doing with the stakeholder community. In fact, we go so far as to reach out to our stakeholders in "pre-socialization" activities.

I am not making this up.

As you observe, the goal of all this socializing is ass-covering.

Anonymous said...
5:01 PM  

Cheers for all the thoughts and entertainment this year TMM. Have a good New Years.

Anonymous said...
7:54 PM  

A quick heads-up (yuck) on "reach out". As Clive Hale noted, it does indeed seem to be a NYC Americanism. I came across it almost two decades ago watching NYPD Blue, which first aired in the early '90s. I'd nominate "sweet spot": not new and not many around these days, but still grates with me. Superb blog, by the way.

SteveH said...
9:25 PM  

Thanks everyone for your contributions. Massive load of suggestions too via the comments for this post at

Polemic said...
10:37 PM  

Great premize and overall zet of annoying phrazes. Reading an article generated from the UK makez me realizzzze however, that the British aplphabet has no use for the letter 'z.'

When you go for a jolly look at animalz assembled in one park, do you call it a trip to the soo?

Anonymous said...
11:24 AM  

I nominate "cloud". I hate this term. I picture its inception in a Marketing meeting with an IT technical staff. A diagram or flow chart is drawn for visual clarity and some marketing idiot bursts out "hey that's a cloud." Now instead of clarity we have "cloudiness".

Anonymous said...
1:56 PM  

Wonderful post! If I had two wishes for this holiday, they would be #1 you have never heard the following words/phrases in your life, and #2 if you haven't, the exposure won't suddendly introduce them to your corporate lexicon. I'm not sure I could live knowing THAT.

My first teeth-gritting selection is "vet," as in "let's vet this in net week's meeting before running it up the flagpole." To me, "vet" has three meanings-- A Corvette, an animal doctor who might put your cherished pet down, and a veteran of warfare who may have taken a piece of shrapnel in the line of duty. All of these are preferrable to hearing the "vet" used as verb.

Next: the use of "reiterate" when one instead means "emphasize." My position is you can never reiterate something you've never said (or said twice, meaning iterated), before.

"Unthaw." Granted, it's unlikely you will hear this at work, but I had to throw this into the mix. "Unthaw" means "to thaw," which begs the questions "What does it mean to un-unthaw?" It's my conceit that this shaggy-dog-of-a-concept is why Thanksgiving is not celebrated in other English-speaking countries. I pretty sure that's been clinically proven.

The next one is "What I THINK I understand," used in select parts of the US when parroting back a concept of which one is not quite sure, e.g. "What I THINK I understand is that you're kinda sensitive about this whole 'vet' issue." Call me a stratification grammarian, but one either thinks or one understands. "Thinking" that you "understand" suggests a mildy creepy internal debate between multiple voices and possbily psychosis. Which reminds me-- it's time for our medicine.
Happy Holidays All-- no matter wich side of the pond or hemisphere.

Anonymous said...
2:04 PM  

yep..its time to get on it...happy new everyone! See ya all in the betting next year.

Amplitudeinthehouse said...
3:22 PM  

"Theoretically a stakeholder is anyone who can affect, or is impacted by, your decisions."

Stakeholders used to hold the wager to be paid to the winner. A stakeholder had NO interest in the outcome beyond identifying the winner. Theoretical, indeed and perhaps the most annoying piece of management speak.

Anonymous said...
5:44 PM  

Yeah good point last anon ..
which makes "Stakeholder" doubly useless as a term.

Polemic said...
6:01 PM  

anon 2.04 ..

A beautifully crafted comment, well not really just a comment .. worthy of a post in its own right.

that very good point on unthaw .. that prompted me into thinking about the new word that i am sure i hear that is equally wrong which is "dethaw" which i guess is a mess up originating from defrost and thaw.

I think Team Macro man should become Team Etymology

Thanks for all the case histories and sightings of some of the phrases, you are all right and lets be honest .. as we aren't team etymology yet the post was written quickly from personal experience rather than from deep research. If We had known it was going to go near viral on "business insider", resulting in all the piss taking over z's instead of s's then perhaps we would have had it looked over by some Oxford don in wordology.

As it is we appear to have hit upon a popular vein, if not exactly a financial one. We will be back true to our roots soon

if we don't comment again, then
Happy new year to you all


Polemic said...
6:22 PM  

11. "Think outside the box" Every school teacher I know uses it as their mantra. What happened to just being creative.

Anonymous said...
7:41 PM  

After all that, I'm surprised you used "impact" as a verb in (6).

Anonymous said...
7:59 PM  

Management Talk Awareness Week - going to HAVE to forward this to some of the total inepts in management at Nokia Music in Bristol (UK), they'll toss themselves blind reading this non productive b*ll*cks. Probably even work it into their IIP objectives for next year ! Nice one :)

Anonymous said...
9:27 AM  
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Miss Lai of FH said...
3:24 PM  

anon 7.59

You are very right. Probably the influenced by the proximity to all the other blx .. Have changed it. That's the problem with writing a post about words. Makes the ones you get wrong an open target.

Polemic said...
7:29 PM  

No ms lai we don't want your spam .. off to the rubbish bin with you ...

Polemic said...
7:31 PM  

I'll need to "invest some thought capital" on this!

Jim said...
10:35 PM  

'Reaching out' isn't new at all, nor is it cool. I first heard it used by anti-cool Andy Sipowicz in NYPD in the mid-1990s.

'Arry said...
7:38 AM  

Thank God someone has pointed out how stupid the entire idea of "bandwidth" really is. I work in the tech sector and have come to despise that term. Why cannot someone just say "I don't have enough time" or the like?!

10:10 PM  

My favourite has to be "talk to" when referring to using an information source as a discussion tool - anything from a diagram, PowerPoint or any source of information that you can't have a conversation with as it won't talk back.

Anonymous said...
11:45 PM  

Complementary Flights does seem to be misleading. I agree with your point. Hopefully this will be corrected. Thanks for sharing.

Rachel Lampard said...
6:17 AM  

A frequent repeat offender of "reaching out" that I'm often subjected to also insists on "giving you some time back" when their meetings end early (yes, that sometimes happens in real life), which is scant consolation for the time you've already lost in yet another of their pointless meetings.

Kevin Crawford said...
12:57 PM  

What about "cadence"? "We have achieved a strong cadence with our end users". "we have a positive cadence in providing ongoing service."
I agree the "reaching out" is the award winner... if I have another person say "In the spirit of reaching out...", I will reach out with my hands to strangle them

Anonymous said...
5:51 PM  

@kevin crawford, I just looked you up in my company directory to see if we worked at the same place. Alas, no. However, I do want to give you a heads up that we did reach out to socialize with our stakeholders, and I am delighted to give you some time back now that we know we are all on the same page. What cadence would you suggest for these updates?

Anonymous said...
4:26 AM  

I saw this in the executive summary of a report following a strategic review of the Australian Treasury.... just couldn't resist

• "The aim is to ensure that Treasury's people values are embedded in both our internal and external interactions."

• "A key outcome of the Review will be an enhanced program of engagement with business and other stakeholders, including more 'non-transactional' engagement.

• "Treasury needs to enhance its project and program management capabilities, including a project planning 'centre of expertise'.

• "As Treasury has grown in size and breadth, traditional 'people to people' techniques have become less effective as knowledge transfer tools."

• " This will involve refreshing the communication criterion of the work value matrix of the Performance Management System."

Rossco said...
1:36 PM  

Rossco, that had us all in stitches. Very very good.

Polemic said...
2:30 PM  

i first came across it when i shifted to nyc in 2005. surprised it's taken such a lengthy time to discover its way to you. and yes, it was just a little bit unusual although disturbingly you found yourself falling into using it.

11:19 AM  

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