Thursday, March 25, 2010

2010 Corporate Speak Tour

I'm writing about music for you (you, expanding, half-anonymous, foggy cloud of blog readership) right now, but I got sidetracked when I accidentally landed on a terrible corporate website. I did a "2008 Corporate Speak Tour" that was pretty scathing (with good stuff on reading indexes too), but there is bound to be some fresh nonsense out there by now. Plus I let myself curse publicly now, so it's bound to be even more fun to get pissed off in twunny-ten.

Let's ask the corporate internet some questions. Today we'll deal with management consulting, one of the most enigmatic I-don't-know-whats that somehow employs a lot of rich bastards. The questions are mine. The answers are all them.

If I hire your management consultants to help my business, what are some long term goals I can look forward to achieving?

"Organizational and industry pre-eminence, manifest by the realization of sustainable change at core as a strategy(s) aimed at breaking from the status quo is implemented."

What are management engagements and how do they work? (I still don't know)

"Engagements are structured to enable the simultaneous achievement of short term, business-as-usual financial and operating objectives, in parallel with the orderly but rapid transition to the desired end state while mitigating for the temporary diminution of business momentum and organizational focus that can occur."

Can you list a couple examples of successful management overhauls you' (I cut these off, but they don't get any clearer if you read them to the end.)

  • "The development and launch of a retail affinity business at one of the top 20 global asset management organizations, separate from but adjacent to a maturing core business...
  • The overhaul of a mission critical fund accounting platform...
  • The design of, negotiation of seed funding for and the launch of a transformational business application...
  • The rationalization of a large corporate services group..."
What is your firm's mission statement? (Notice "therefore" in the first line of the paragraph. Reminds me of a plagiarized freshman paper I read that started with "Thus...")

"(Company Name) was therefore founded with a single purpose: To enable the rapid, well executed implementation of sustainable change at core – that which is necessitated by the adoption of strategic decisions aimed at breaking from the status quo."

I looked around to see if this kind of corporate speak is standard in management consulting, but I seem to have found a real treat with this one. I am positive that it is not my misunderstanding of management nomenclature that makes deciphering such a website near impossible. There is a page on "implementation" that is just as painful, but amazingly it communicates things (since it's about the actual, concrete steps they take to overhaul the management), and I understood it just fine. Moreover, I don't think it's my problem understanding this lady's writing, but her problem knowing how to write, because the large reputable firms out there were able to find writers who use standard English. They still use stupid industry fad words like "solutions" and "holistic," but they are not trying to hide anything, or confuse, or impress.

Here's an excerpt from a big Boston firm that acts as sort of a mission statement:

"Our objective is not simply to apply best practice, but to invent it. We think creatively and partner with our clients to solve their toughest challenges."

Pretty clear, huh? And short. And besides the management-specific terms here and there, the rest of the site is just as clear and non-wordy.

"Hmm...Solutions...Uhh...Implementations... This shit is money!"

I don't know who decided it would be cool to have doctoral programs in "writing for business" or some shit, and I don't know why it became the standard to hire PhDs to write web copy. They do that, you know, when they have the money. As if having the most-difficult-to-understand website means you'll win the bid for building that museum or whatever. The museum folks will see right through your word-dickery. I think you might just trick other small to medium businesses into using your services, because they hire the same guys (or MBAs anyway) to write up their mission statements. Maybe the problem is not that these companies want too much expertise (or just dressed-to-impress bullshit) for their copy, but that the MBAs and business doctors (haha) aren't trained for that sort of thing. That writing thing.

I'm not saying everyone should hire an English degree holder to do this stuff. We hate this stuff! Stay away from us. But I think maybe those grad school programs I've seen for MAs in English are onto something when they market themselves toward corporate America (doesn't bother me -- those programs are usually on separate tracks from the lit degrees). Their websites, in good English, suggest that businesspeople, communications execs, technical writers, and copywriters of all sorts study some goddamn literature and write some decent, intelligible papers on specific topics before they venture out into the corporate world to barf out all sorts of gibberish onto their big flat screens. Of course the English departments use some line like "the MA will help your management style by making you a better communicator" or something, but I'm sure their motive is a little more selfish. They want some of that corporate money sending executives back to school on tuition reimbursement (there are no scholarships for those sorts of MAs), and they don't want to be inundated by the terrible writing produced by businesspeople anymore.

At the email marketing seminar I attended last week, we looked at a real sample email sent out by a finance company. The ladies at my table thought the copy was too long, but blamed themselves. "It's sort of in another language (finance)... so I can't judge it." Oh yes you can! It was not as bad as this management website, but it was a little pointless and wordy. You can tell those things without being a financier. I didn't say anything though, since copywriting is not part of email marketing education beyond the all important "email subject line."

So that's it for today. I've confirmed that the internet is still an awful place for the written language. This website is just one of millions of examples I'm sure you can find with minimal effort. I'm going to go finish your Van Halen etc. article now.

***In case you aren't adventurous or intrigued enough to have clicked the link to 2008's entry on corporate speak, here is the link from that entry. It's got built in reading indexes (not the end-all be-all of whether something's readable, but useful especially for internet writing), and a funny interpretation of the scores. Today's site scored only at "academic paper" level despite its wordiness, but I chalk that up to its not really having said anything. A management firm should really be trying for a Newsweek or Wall Street Journal level of readability -- and for communicating something in the first place. Pharmaceutical sites, because they're so impressive, usually rate in "the government is covering something up" category.

1 comment:

  1. Every time I hear the word "impliment" I think of that girl in my psychology class at Pima who used it constantly during a group project. I made fun of her in front of everyone and she got upset. It was one of the most fulfilling moments of my life. I bet she's the one who wrote that crap you're making fun of.


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