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The Superior Excellence Awards for outstanding achievements in bull shitting

July 3, 2018

 

Hyperbole, cant, cliché, buzz words, geek-speak, legalese, obscurantism, gibberish, gobbledygook, jargon, twaddle, waffle. The English language is a wonderful thing - it has so many alternative terms for its own misuse. 

 

For several years I had the good fortune to be a default translator - proofing contributions from the various tribes of corporate sales people, marketers, tech heads, lawyers and accountants and  turning dense, unintelligible jabber into something resembling clear communications. For a smart-arsed pedant it was heaven. The offer to a potential customer in a draft executive summary of "superior excellence" was the point of peak bilge and the inspiration for a regular award to ungrateful recipients. Good times!

 

There was also of course the widespread embrace of the mundane corporate clichés - moving forward. Every generic component of a service was a solution, usually leading edge & out of the box (an oxymoron that still delights me) and best-of-breed (FFS - this is not Crufts). There were deltas, synergies, paradigm shifts, win-wins, end-to-end customer experiences, ecosystems and key stakeholders to reach out to with a call to action. Throats to choke and panes of glass were always in the singular - a value add to resonate with the customer's journey. All of these terms were adopted as a part of the framework of the bespoke construct. There was the egregious nouning of verbs and verbing of nouns. The obligatory "thinking outside the box" did not extend to the  use of language.

 

The re-writing of such gobbledygook was a fulfilling but secondary function of my job. It suited a smug prick like me but it was a losing battle. The disease that is corporatese has spread so far and so wide and is so ingrained it manifests itself in every interaction - conversations, emails and the mandatory PowerPoint packs of dot-pointed flim flam. 

 

It should be recognised that clear and concise communication is not the purpose of corporatese. Corporatese serves other purposes, and those purposes are why the battle against the phenomenon is lost. Let's have a look at that by considering its users.

 

Management. It's a constant challenge for management to fool others into believing that those in charge know what they're doing. Management sources its baloney from consultants. Management doesn't really understand that baloney but, hey, if they're paying $2,000 per hour for it then they're gonna use it.

 

The consultants fully understand that to justify (sic) their huge fees then they need to sound insightful and wise. Simple English will expose them as the frauds that they are. Buzzwords and meaningless jargon are the "core competencies" of the consultant.

 

Wanna-bes and apple polishers. Sycophants and yes men - the first through the door at management's Leaders To All quarterly cadence panel presentations (yes, that is a thing), sitting up front and centre, taking notes  - these are the spreaders of the plague that is corporatese. 

 

The horrendous "share of wallet" and "stickiness of wallet" were spread like syphilis at a sailors' bawdy house by these types upon the use of those terms by the Big Man at one snore-fest. 

 

Cliques. Various clans mark their territories with arcane language that is intended to baffle outsiders and demonstrate the specialness of the user. The communication here is not one of conveying information, it is intended as exactly the opposite - to impress yet exclude the uninitiated; opacity as a virtue.

 

Tech heads. A specific clique that is particularly enamoured of initialisations and acronyms - the BOM for the CPE HA ASR FWs inc DDOS, IDS/IPS and VNF with 2Gig EoIP VPN to the DC Co-Lo POP for the MAN. FMD!

 

Obsessed with circuit boards and the naming conventions for ports on routers the tech head is not as a consequence all that familiar with social graces and inter-actions with the opposite sex (99.999% of tech heads are male - an appropriate value given "five nines" is tech head nirvana. They'll know what that means) . They are hence naive and impressionable and therefore vulnerable to the BS of the more worldly marketers to whom they feed their geek-speak for enclosing in the prosaic genericisms that are the forte of those marketers.

 

Marketers. The masters of brochureware - pages of incomprehensible generalisations that say and mean nothing. Marketers are obsessed with the company brand - there is nothing more important than a font and a colour scheme that complies with the company style guide; the true believers in "company values" whateverthefuck that means. 

 

Marketers have a peripheral understanding at best of a company's products and services - hence their output(!) is a collection of buzzwords, with "ROI" from the finance department, "scalability" from engineering, "virtual" from the geeks. A service description from marketing will convey absolutely nothing about what the service actually does. But it will be a rich source of corporatese.

 

Sales people. No one is more impressed by a salesman that the salesman himself. Big egos with no validity - these door openers, with the latest brochureware under their arms and a tech head in tow can babble interminably in corporatese, spouting every cliché in the book until the customer eventually surrenders or passes out.

 

When they put their thoughts to paper you have a source of huge amusement. Just be sure it never goes to the customer unedited.

 

There are any number of collections of bullshit bingo on the interwebs - with the expected content of moving forward, reaching out, taking it off line, thought showers, deep dives and helicopter views of the low-hanging fruit.....so there's no value add in repeating it here. What is worthwhile are some neologisms that have the potential to creep their way into the corporate lexicon of bullshit blather. Some are horrendous while others are clever and not yet in wide use and therefore still quite amusing.

 

The Bad and the Ugly

The inventors of these phrases need to be dragged outside behind the wheelie bins and severely jostled.

 

  • Can I stir fry an idea in your think-wok? If ever there was a case for instant dismissal this is it.

  • Deferred success. Failure.

  • Negative growth. Highly paid people say this with a straight face.

  • Face time. Your face, my fist?

  • Agreeance. Egregiousance.

  • Bake-off. Fuck off!

  • Banner year. Please, never expose management to this term.

  • Battle rhythm. That rhythm is from the chair leg I am beating you about the head with.

  • Blue-ocean opportunity. This should be taken out to sea and sunk.

  • Bricks-to-clicks. Every bell end in a suit will look for a reason to throw this into the conversation.

  • Calendar tickler. Liverpool kiss for you if you ever use that term again.

  • Craft, construct, build. It's a fucking spreadsheet you twat - just fill in the cells.

  • Populate. The problem here is that your parents decided to do this.

  • Createalytics. Bullshit describing bullshit.

  • Dial and smile. Cold calling.

  • Dialogue marketing. Interactive bullshitting of a customer. 

  • Directionally accurate. Missed by a mile.

  • Ideas sherpa. Scaling execrable new heights of wankerdom. 

 

The Good

These terms fall under office banter more than corporatese. They show a level of inventiveness and humour that is missing in the trite jabber of corporatese.

 

  • Anecgloat. A story designed to make the teller look good.

  • Bangalored. Your job has been outsourced to India.

  • Blamestorming. A search for a scapegoat.

  • Checked Eskimo. When a clearly unqualified individual lands a job or promotion they should have had no chance at getting, that person must have "checked eskimo" on the application.

  • Chinese fire drill. A project that is characterised by frantic confusion.

  • Compliment sandwich. A pointed criticism delivered between two compliments to dull the blow. Build them up, tear them down, then leave on a positive note.

  • Cubicle vultures. Those who gather office supplies from the desk of a fired co-worker.

  • Dead Tree Edition. Printed version of a document.

  • Deceptionist. I'm sorry, the boss is very busy right now.

  • Decision sniper. The person who sits quietly in a meeting until just before a decision is reached, then raises a question that forces the group to reconvene later

  • Deja moo. The nagging feeling that you've heard this BS before.

  • Dopeler effect. The principle that stupid ideas sound better when they come at you quickly.

  • Entremanure. A self-employed risk taker that can't catch a break. Everything he touches turns to shit.

  • Gerbil tubes.The covered walkways that connect buildings on a large campus.

  • Ignoranus. Someone who is both stupid and an arsehole.

  • Meanderthal. A person who has difficulty expressing themselves succinctly.

  • Mucus trooper. Your colleague who always gets the worst colds, yet still makes it in to work to cough it all over you.

  • Muppet shuffle. The shifting of under-performing or troublesome employees to other unsuspecting departments.

  • Promoted to customer. Fired.

  • Rectal DataBase. Where stupid ideas originate.

  • Sunshine enema. After massive layoffs, this is the spin campaign given to the remaining shell-shocked and fear-crippled employees.

  • Testiculate. To wave one's arms while at the same time, talking bollocks.

A highly recommended read from the Australian Financial Review: 

 

Complicate and obfuscate, the key to writing corporate BS

 

 

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