Microspeak: Well, actually management-speak


I hate management-speak.

Here's an example from an internal Web site.

The purpose of this Web site is two-fold.

  1. Create a reference source (best practices) where individuals can learn how to plan/facilitate and leverage their X activities most effectively.
  2. Establish a library of X material teams can utilize.

Wow, let's look at the first stated purpose. It goes on for so long and uses blatant management-speak such as "facilitate" and "leverage" that by the time it's over, I forget how the sentence started. Going back and reading it again, it appears that the first item is identical to the second! It's just that the first item says it in a more confusing way.

The second item shows evidence of management wordsmithing as well. "Utilize" instead of "use". An action verb like "establish" rather than a state verb like "to be". And those changes actually render the sentence incorrect. The purpose of the site isn't to "establish" a library; the purpose of the site is to be that library. Establishing the library is what you did when you created the site in the first place! That purpose has already been completed.

I think the people who built this Web site just copied their annual review goals into the Web site text, forgetting that the review goal describes what you are supposed to do, not what the thing you created is supposed to do.

Here's how I would have written it:

This Web site is a library of X materials.

Comments (30)
  1. Pierre B. says:

    Does Microsoft also has an internal web library of PG-13 materials?

  2. mvadu says:

    What is your carrier goal Ray… With out these wording you will not reach next levels.. I am not sure of Microsoft though, if a senior manager without any of these fancy sentences, survives with only his technical knowledge.

    Reminds me of a Senior Manager of Microsoft (Vista SP1 team) whom I contacted for an issue I faced after installing Vista after MS Support closed the case as unresolved. I was expecting some sort of technical suggestions or at least a will to ask for my system details where the issue occurred, instead he spent time to search tigerdirect.com suggesting how I can use 20$ USB HDD enclosure to backup my HDD in different machine and going for entire 160GB wipeout. Ofcourse he used similar wordings.. very fancy..

  3. ScottB says:

    The two purposes might be different: #1 could mean that they’re going to have some documents with text that say things like "write code clearly", and #2 could be a code repository.

    That said, it’d be a lot easier to tell whether they’re different if they had decided not to obfuscate.

  4. George says:

    I guess there is write-only prose just as there is write-only code.

  5. MrM says:

    I often wonder if the people that write this stuff read this blog, and feel suitably embarrassed, or knock on Raymond’s door.

  6. jcoehoorn says:

    In their defense, there are 2 separate goals:

    1) Be a library of X materials.

    2) That people actually use said library.  Otherwise, how can it promote best practices, re-use of material, consistent look and feel, yada yada yada

  7. Spike says:

    My manager asked me "Have you thought about project X?"

    I replied "Yes, I’ve written down the things I think we need to do, here they are."

    In a later meeting he said regarding project X "We’ve come up with a seven point action plan."

  8. lynnlangit says:

    To quote more accurate Microspeak, you must also include the extraordinary number of internal acronyms to which we are subjected, i.e  "Create a reference source (best practices) where TSPs,SSPs,PAMs or PSAs who are engaged with our EPG or SMS&P teams can learn how to plan/facilitate and leverage their X activities around the WSSMM vision documents most effectively."

  9. James L says:

    I concur.  Life is too short for this nonsense.

  10. MadQ1 says:

    @ScottB: "obfuscate" is a geek-speak word that is "utilized" way too often. Whatever happened to good old "obscure"? The latter is only ever used to explain what former means. Of course, it’s not quite as bad as the adjective form: "obfuscatory". Sorry for being obtuse.

  11. Anon says:

    I interviewed for a somewhat interesting team in Microsoft. What turned me off was the obvious waste of money going into management. I was offered two positions, but chose neither.

    Microsoft needs to get back to being developer focused. All these frickin managers are going to drive you into the ground.

  12. AC says:

    I hate management-speak.

    Probably like everybody else who has read something like that. Your example makes me cringe.

  13. Neil (SM) says:

    I guess Strunk & White isn’t near the top of the required reading list at many business schools.

  14. Mike Dunn says:

    My current favorite (and by that I mean, not favorite) management-speak is "the cloud." It’s that thing we used to call "the Internet."

  15. James says:

    Haha, too true.

    It’s worse if they’ve ever gone for NLP training though. Because now they have a set of "tools" to expedite "outcomes" that are "win-win".

  16. Daniel Colascione says:

    mvadu, your comment disturbs me, though I think it’s correct.

    Why should we need to obfuscate language to be promoted based on technical merit? The world would be a much better place if it were a true meritocracy.

  17. David Walker says:

    I HATE, HATE, HATE the word "utilize".  What is wrong with "use"?  (Yooze, not Yooss).

  18. Daniel Colascione says:

    MadQ, "obfuscate" and "obscure" have different connotations for me. To "obfuscate" to something is to make something complex while leaving it in plain sight. To "obscure" something is to disguise it, to make it blend into the background.

    Or, obfuscate is to obscure as encryption is stenography.

  19. Alexandre Grigoriev says:

    Be grateful the website wasn’t titled "Heroes Happen Here".

  20. Ken Hagan says:

    On the plus side, you know just from the first page of the site that it won’t contain anything of value. Had it been better written, it might have taken you half an hour to discover that.

  21. HagenP says:

    Raymond, you are already partially "infected" – on a web site, the information "This web site is…." is also highly redundant. How about:

    Library of X materials

    <followed by a directory of available stuff>

    :-)

  22. anonymous says:

    The purpose of this Web site is not actually to establish a blogging point where individuals can enrich their learns on facilitating and leveraging .NET-related activities most effectively.

    [That’s awesome. I have a new subtitle! -Raymond]
  23. Programmerman says:

    I bow to you, anonymous, for one of the greatest laughs I’ve had in a while, and to you, Raymond, for making it your subtitle.

  24. eikonos says:

    I wholeheartedly agree about writing in clear, direct language.

    Kudos to anonymous for the subtitle and Raymond for using it.

  25. Just saw your new tagline: "not actually to establish a blogging point where individuals can enrich their learns on facilitating and leveraging .NET-related activities most effectively"… Awesome.

  26. steven says:

    Awesome indeed. Had to read it several times over only to discover that the parser in my brain isn’t up to it :)

  27. Josh says:

    Love the new subtitle :) Kudos to Anonymous ;)

  28. nah yah, whatever says:

    Oh my word. Only just noticed it. Does anyone have any Kleenex?

  29. tcliu says:

    I’d like to cast my vote for:

      X

    Succinct, complete. Everyone understands what it is about – if it is seeded with papers/articles etc. about X, people will understand it is a library. If it has a blog, people will understand that the blog is about news about X. If it has a forum, people will understand they can discuss X there.

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