Microspeak: Assorted babble

Here are some phrases I jotted down during a meeting. I don't even know what meeting it was. (They were jotted on some scratch paper.) These don't count so much as Microspeak as they do just assorted management babble.

  • "inspiring sustained high performance"
  • "fostering agility and resilience"
  • "clarifying the journey"
  • "unleashing talent"
  • "a new or unanticipated experiment"

Sometimes I wish management would speak in plain English. But then the rest of us might realize that they don't know what they're talking about.

Comments (25)
  1. Darren Winsper says:

    Raymond, you sound confused at the phrases management are using, perhaps you should ask them to clarify your journey in order to unleash your talent and inspire sustained high performance.

  2. Andreas Magnusson says:

    After reading through some marketing babble produced by our company’s marketing departement sucha as "An Accurate Barcode reader", my colleague wrote a small JavasScript applet that generates much better marketing sentences: "Extraordinarily modern barcode reader empowers you with huge possibilites for amazingly accurate patient care."

    Hopefully we can soon overthrow the marketing department and RULE the company, MUWAHAHAHA…

  3. Tom says:

    Lawyers have "amicus briefs" and "People V Brown"; doctors have "bovine spongiform encephalopathy" and "acute myocardial infarction"; and tech guys have "IPv4 MAC converted from SCSI to PPPoE on 3MBit DSL".  Perhaps managers were feeling left out, so they invented their own jargon.  For example, why say "pick from multiple vendors’ products" when you can say "down-select", a term that has no meaning to anyone other than another manager?

    I know picking on managers is a perennial favorite, but perhaps we can cut them some slack?  It’s hard work coming up with phrases no one can understand.

    Aside: Someone at Google must be paying attention.  The first result when searching for Old New Thing is this blog with the brief "Weblog on technical nitty-gritty, with a Microsoft focus." instead of some random line from one of Raymond’s posts.  I’m still perplexed as to why the post on __purecall has been the #2 result for the last year.  People must really want to know about abstract base classes.

    Note: And if you thought I was kidding about routing TCP/IP over SCSI, see RFC 2143.

  4. Especially in upper management, communications are extremely targetted at the higher-up.  I’ve only been in a few meetings with senior execs but people start talking using absolutely crazy analogies and metaphors and eventually I realized that they’re the same ones that the exec uses.

    If you spend all your days in such doublespeak meetings I suspect you forget that for most people these in-phrases are meaningless.

    hint: use golf metaphors when your exec in question plays golf.

    [Using jargon to suck up to your boss turned into a future blog entry. Thanks, Michael. -Raymond]
  5. ethermal says:

    ya SCSI over tcpip is called iSCSI a good solution for SAN.  Or is there another spec going in a different direction?  

  6. Larry Hosken says:

    I think "technical nitty-gritty" came from dmoz.org, the ODP (Open Directory Project). Google used the boring ODP description of my page until I added this tag: meta name="ROBOTS" content="NOODP".

    The following is an obligatory on-topic remark. Of the ways that you can figure out "I never want to work with this person again," a short meeting is relatively painless; knowing who to avoid is a great tactical advantage.  Treasure these moments.  

  7. Daniel Chait says:

    Perhaps you can create us some Readiness http://blog.lab49.com/archives/1800 about this topic?

  8. lacroix says:

    From the other empire, some of my favorite Statements of Mass Confusion:

    "achieve functional excellence"

    "expand presence in attractive adjacencies"

    "executing flawlessly on existing commitments"

    "mover panels" (in reference to a cart mounted flat panel tv with computer)

  9. Aaron says:

    People actually said these things?  Out loud?  Sounds like something you’d read on a Mission Statement.

    I’m used to management using buzzwords like "quality" and "excellence", but I don’t think I could stop myself from falling asleep in a meeting like that.

  10. DelphiProgrammer says:

    Learn some buzz phrases from this page http://www.outofservice.com/buzzword/

    then throw them at your managers.

  11. NonStationaryLogisticVariable says:

    Going Forward, we will buzzword you all!

  12. ghbyrkit says:

    The school board where I live has as part of its mission statement that it will provide ‘a quality educational experience’.  Silly me, I would only hope that they provide a ‘quality education’!  Same kind of bs speak…

  13. steveo says:

    Thank to the Internet, I am able to work and live in a large log cabin home on a lake with a gorgeous mountain view.  The other benefit is that there are no "corporate types" around here.  After a few years of being here, I have grown accustomed to living among regular people and these corporate types really seem strange now.

    During my trips back to Silicon Valley, I’ve found it amusing how differently the people in the corporate world talk there.  And I started to wonder where they learned to talk like that.  Is it something they pick up in business school?  Or maybe even from TV and movies, where people are emulating what they believe is the way business people behave?  Or is it picked up from being among their peers?

    And I’ve discovered when I hear people talk that way now, my immediate reaction is to look at them as being insecure and unsure of themselves and their knowledge.  I don’t think I had that same perspective when I lived among them.

    Anyway… you really have to wonder who started this whole corporate-speak thing and how did it catch on.

  14. Mr Cranky says:

    Doctors, lawyers, and tech-types use jargon for precision, clarity, and brevity.  Managers slavishly glom onto the latest doublespeak for exactly the opposite reasons.

  15. Jonno says:

    @Mr Cranky – you’re dead on the money.

    Sometimes managers have to make and then enforce decisions that other people are going to be unhappy about, whether that means not letting people work on their favourite projects, or sacking people who aren’t pulling their weight, or sacking people who are pulling their weight, but working in an area that is no longer profitable.

    In order for managers to make and enforce these decisions, they need to be able to keep some distance between themselves and the people who will be affected by their decisions.

    Management speak is about keeping that distance – it makes it easier for the managers to not think about the emotional responses that will be generated by the decisions they make.

  16. mikeb says:

    > ya SCSI over tcpip is called iSCSI a good solution for SAN.  Or is there another spec going in a different direction?  <<

    Umm, the afore mentioned RFC 2143 (Encapsulating IP with the Small Computer System Interface)?  Though I doubt that it’s seen any application outside of Ben Elliston’s lab.

    iSCSI is RFC 3720 (Internet Small Computer Systems Interface (iSCSI)).

  17. nksingh says:

    Managers do hard jobs too…  But they gotta realize that their job is to run the team and ensure forward progress. Perhaps some of their job should be also deciding what to build (i.e. what features to focus on, which ones to defer).  But it seems like their primary job should be to ensure that the team is happy and productive and that the focus areas are properly staffed and working.  

    They shouldn’t have any pretensions that they are actually building the product, unless of course they contribute important amounts of code or detailed design ideas.

  18. Wil says:

    Why would you want them to speak English for?

    Would make playing bullshit bingo a little hard.

    http://www.bullshitbingo.net/cards/bullshit/ :D

  19. GreaseMonkey says:

    * "inspiring sustained high performance" – Supposed to keep running fast. And properly.

    * "fostering agility and resilience" – Meant to work when being shot at. Or something.

    * "clarifying the journey" – Attempting to make it clear, however, it’s probably going to be loaded with all this babble.

    * "unleashing talent" – We have a few n00bs straight out of university who are going to stick a gets() in.

    * "a new or unanticipated experiment" – I don’t want to know, but it’s sure to screw up.

  20. Merus says:

    Microsoft’s honestly getting a little ridiculous with the Microspeak in their external announcements these days. I can’t imagine what it must be like on the inside.

  21. Morten says:

    I’ve got the whole plate full. What’s the prize? ;-)

  22. Non-msft-er says:

    Is this really microspeak or mgmt-speak ? Or were you saying there are way too many LOUD managers around ?

  23. fatbob says:

    leveraging the dynamic synergies

  24. Mihai says:

    "ensure forward progress"

    Hmmmm, what about "backward progress" or "forward regress"?

  25. AdamV says:

    External Microspeak is worse, since they ought to know that a large proportion of their audience do not have buzzword as their primary language:


    (that’s http://tinyurl.com/2lvfmc in case it gets truncated)

    Steveo asked: "[is it that] people are emulating what they believe is the way business people behave?"

    I believe it is, people pick up on phrases that they think sound "more managementish".

    For example: "please return your completed forms to myself" sounds grander than "…to me" but is just grammatically incorrect. I am also hearing a lot of "definitive[ly]" where definite would be more accurate. Adding syllables for the sake of  it seems to be the game here.

    Going forward I’m going to realign my outbound speech characteristics to synergistically maximise grandiloquence and reduce the comprehension surface.

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