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Use and Abuses of Jargon

Use and Abuses of Jargon

In “Death Sentences: How Cliches, Weasel Words and Management-Speak Are Strangling Public Language,” Don Watson shows how business BS-speak is invading everything from public schools to churches. An article in Newsweek magazine called “Attack of the Weasel Words,” includes and interview with the author. In it, Watson says:

“We are all customers. Even the CIA talks about having internal clients. I’m quite sure that in another iteration, the Army will talk about enemy clients. Once they decide we’re all customers then the consequences for basic relationships in civil society are not good. I think the old civilities will do, and I don’t know why we all have to be customers, let alone valued customers. It’s even gotten into religion. St. Martin-in-the-Fields [the Anglican church] in London now has a two-point mission statement out front on the wall. Their first point is the duty to God and Christian charity and the second is to provide excellence in hospitality. For [centuries] they’ve been doing charity and now it’s “excellence in hospitality.”

Watson believes people have decided to live in an economy, not a society, and this vague, overblown language has become so commonplace in people’s professional lives they bring it home with them too.

Jargon is addictive. It’s also useful and harmless in its place. That place is among people who share a defined skill or expertise. Within skilled or professional groupings from doctors to plumbers, jargon is a sensible way to discuss things that apply to their sphere of knowledge. Where you can’t explain what you mean succinctly in ordinary language, a special term everyone within that grouping understands becomes essential. As far back as Biblical shepherds and beyond, special terms like “wethers” (castrated male sheep) have been used and accepted. If a doctor speaks to another medic about vasodilation, both know exactly what’s meant.

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The problem we suffer from today, in business and elsewhere, is the use of jargon and consulting BS by people who neither know what they mean precisely, nor expect those they’re speaking to understand them. Indeed, that’s often the point: to use language that you hope makes you sound like an expert before a non-expert audience. It’s become associated with business consultants because so many of that breed pretend to knowledge they don’t have. It’s known as “keeping one step ahead of the client.” As long as you know a fraction more than your client, you’re the expert.

Politics, with its “spin doctors” and PR spokespeople, is another prime source of the spreading tendency to use language to disguise or confuse. So is the need for politicians to hide lazy thinking or addiction to special interests. Since the media are drenched in pundits pretending to knowledge and politicians trying to sound good, while saying nothing dangerous, it’s hardly surprising business-speak and consulting BS is spreading like a pandemic.

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The answer lies in your hands and mine. If we refuse to accept weasel words from others and insist on saying what we mean in plain terms, even marketers (some of the worst offenders) will stop drenching us in BS. It’s because they think consumers are taken in by meaningless claims to be “customer-centric” or “quality driven” that they use these terms. Talk is cheaper than doing anything to improve quality or service. It’s time we made it clear that we’re expensive, and the currency they must use to buy our attention isn’t management-speak or BS. It’s honest, understandable language backed up by clear action.

Adrian Savage is an Englishman and a retired business executive who lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his thoughts most days at The Coyote Within and Slow Leadership, the site for anyone who wants to bring back the fun and satisfaction to management work.

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Last Updated on October 15, 2019

How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them in 7 Simple Steps

How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them in 7 Simple Steps

Where do you want to be 5 years from now, 10 years from now, or even this time next year? These places are your goal destinations and although you might know that you don’t want to be standing still in the same place as you are now, it’s not always easy to identify what your real goals are.

Many people think that setting a goal destination is having a dream that is there in the far distant future but will never be attained. This proves to be a self-fulfilling prophesy because of two things:

Firstly, that the goal isn’t specifically defined enough in the first place; and secondly, it remains a remote dream waiting for action which is never taken.

Defining your goal destination is something that you need to take some time to think carefully about. The following steps on how to plan your life goals should get you started on a journey to your destination:

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1. Make a list of your goal destinations

Goal destinations are the things that are important to you. Another word for them would be ambitions, but ambitions sound like something which outside of your grasp, whereas goal destinations are certainly achievable if you are willing to put in the effort working towards them.

So what do you really want to do with your life? What are the main things that you would like to accomplish with your life? What is it that you would really regret not doing if you suddenly found you had a limited amount of time left on the earth?

Each of these things is a goal. Define each goal destination in one sentence.

If any of these goals is a stepping stone to another one of the goals, take it off this list as it isn’t a goal destination.

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2. Think about the time frame to have the goal accomplished

This is where the 5 year, 10 year, next year plan comes into it.

Some goals will have a “shelf life” because of age, health, finance, etc, whereas others will be up to you as to when you would like to achieve them by.

3. Write down your goals clearly

Write each goal destination at the top of a new piece of paper.

For each goal, write down what is it that you need and don’t have now that will allow you achieve that goal. This could be some kind of education, career change, finance, a new skill, etc. Any “stepping stone” goals you removed will fit into this exercise. If any of these smaller “goals” have sub-goals, go through the same process with these so that you have precise action points to work with.

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4. Write down what you need to do for each goal

Under each item listed, write down the things that you will need to do in order to complete each of the steps required to complete the goal. 

These items will become a check-list. They are a tangible way of checking how you are progressing towards reaching your goal destinations. A record of your success!

5. Write down your timeframe with specific and realistic dates

Using the time frames you created, on each goal destination sheet write down the year in which you will complete the goal by.

For any goal which has no fixed completion date, think about when you would like to have accomplished it by and use that as your destination date.

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Work within the time frames for each goal destination, make a note of realistic dates by which you will complete each of the small steps.

6. Schedule your to-dos

Now take an overview of all your goal destinations and make a schedule of what you need to do this week, this month, this year – in order to progress along the road towards your goal destinations.

Write these action points on a schedule so that you have definite dates on which to do things.

7. Review your progress

At the end of the year, review what you have done this year, mark things off the check-lists for each goal destination and write up the schedule with the action points you need for the next year.

Although it may take you several years to, for example, get the promotion you desire because you first need to get the MBA which means getting a job with more money to allow you to finance a part-time degree course, you will ultimately be successful in achieving your goal destination because you have planned out not only what you want, but how to get it, and have been pro-active towards achieving it.

Featured photo credit: Debby Hudson via unsplash.com

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