Those of you that work in an office environment for a medium to large-sized company will probably attend far more meetings than you believe to be useful, effective or desirable. We know that they are a necessary evil in some circumstances but there are just far too many of them,are there not?
There are some people who clearly like meetings. I think they are the kind of person that likes to hear the sound of their own voice. Far be it from me to criticise on that score, as clearly anyone who writes their own blog must like the sound of their own voice. However, whilst I am more than happy to blather endlessly in a social setting I am bit more reticent in work meetings. I work on the principle that the more people that talk, the longer the meeting will last; and I have absolutely no interest in prolonging the agony.
I also find that those with a fondness for speaking in meetings are those that make great subjects for a game of Bullshit Bingo. You know the game, the one where you cross off a particularly sickly, trendy or jargony phrase every time someone utters it? In days gone by, typical examples of spew-inducing phrases would be “push the envelope”, “run it up the flagpole”, “touch base” or “blue sky thinking”.
But now, there must be a totally different syllabus for a business degree from when I scraped through mine at Preston Poly back in the late 80s, because all the phrases are completely different. Maybe it’s just that I have been subjected to a new breed of consultant over the last few years, but it seems to me like the old vocabulary has been replaced by a fresh arsenal of dullard-speak for the 2010s.
There are dozens of them. The five I have picked out below were uttered in one single meeting I attended last week, almost all of them by the same individual. If you ever see or hear me coming even close to uttering any of the following phrases, then feel free to take me outside and give me a right good kicking.
Keeping the piece – “I’m looking after the Finance piece but Tony is looking after the Commercial piece”. Piece? Who decided that we have to use the word piece to differentiate one part of a project or programme from another? It seems to me that ‘part’ was always good enough, back in the day. If you wanted to be particularly eloquent you could have pushed the boat out and used the word ‘aspect’, whereas in Wigan, and doubtless other northern towns, ‘bit’ was a perfectly acceptable distinguisher. But, piece? Really? Do me a favour and piece off!
Upwardly mobile – “How will we deal with this, going forward?” I accept that most people might not find this phrase particularly offensive and, in truth, it isn’t. I just can’t see what was wrong with saying ‘in the future’ which is what I am pretty sure we all used to happily say in the past. It doesn’t even save any time replacing ‘in the future’ with ‘going forward’ because they both have four syllables.
A telling phrase – ‘Inform’ is the newest (for me, anyway) of the toe-curling phrases that are bandied around in modern meetings. To be fair, I have only heard one person in my current workplace use this regularly (he does use it in every other sentence, mind) but it has started to rub off on everyone else who have now also started to use it. “The S.I.T. phase will inform the U.A.T. phase”, for example. Well it won’t, will it, as it is a completely abstract concept. I have visions of a test document wandering down the corridor to tell, nay inform, a design spec what it has been up to. Sorry, it’s just bollocks!
Nirvana – Whatever projects we work on these days, whatever ‘customer experience’ we are endeavouring to improve/confuse/screw up, the whole way through it must be described as a ‘journey’. And where is the destination of this journey? Well, more often than not, we seem to be heading in the direction of some unspecified “better place” or aiming to land someone on their ‘happy path’. I mean, come on, seriously?! It can’t possibly just be me that thinks this kind of speak is nauseating, can it?
Touchy feely – And as we attempt to navigate people along their happy path and toward their happy place, we have to be careful that we don’t upset them. I’m all for this, after all, we’re all in it together, as Mr Cameron keeps telling us. I’m not completely insensitive and do see the need to ensure that people are comfortable with changes that may be coming their way. But do we really need to give them “the heads up” and seek to “warm them up” to what will soon be happening to them and their world. We always used to ‘warn’ people but now we have to ‘warm’ them up too. In the good old days we used to warm people up by putting a rocket up their arse. There’s not enough of that today, in my view. People have gone all soft. Bring back National Service, that’s what I say.
See you on the parade ground – Sargeant-Major Griff