When buzzwords take over your company

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Half of working in any profession is learning the language of the profession. But corporations are starting to replace the actions associated with the language with just the language. We’ve become a company of buzzwords where corporate speak is substituted for corporate actions.

If you don’t know the language, you don’t count

One of the first signs of success in starting a new job comes with the “aha” moment. You know…the one where you are in a meeting and one of the participants strings together fourteen words in a sentence and half the words are acronyms. And you understand what was said, despite all the acronyms. It is a heady (and scary) moment.

But the truth of the matter is that unless you can understand the language, your voice really doesn’t count. You don’t get it, you see. You don’t know the language so how you you possibly help?

Certification means you learned the language, but…

Certifications, of course, help you learn all the languages of business. You can get certified in Lean or Six Sigma or PMP or ITIL or whatever. Now, there are some practical uses to those certifications, but the reality is that just because you have a certification, it doesn’t mean you will be a great employee. The world is littered with certifications associated with people who couldn’t produce a business result if they tried.

But they have that certification, they know the language, so that’s cool. Right?

We need to tie actions and results with language

Here’s what I want you to do. Go look at that insidious PowerPoint you have in your desk drawer about that great new program that was rolled out six months ago (you know you are in trouble when “program” and “rolled out” are in the same sentence…). Look at all those cool buzzwords in the PowerPoint. What has happened to implement all those grand buzzwords?

Did “customer focused” drive any actions that helped focus on the customer?

Did “continuous improvement” really bring about any improvements?

Did “engage our employees” bring out any “organizational investment” to support employee engagement?

Did “become an agile company” result in any agility? How would you know?

Then have even more fun by pulling out the PowerPoint from six months before this one and see if the same talking points are in that PowerPoint. Have a contest with your coworkers on how many buzzwords matched between the two PowerPoint’s. Maybe a drinking contest. After work, of course…

Change is hard

We need to love change. But change is hard to implement. We put all of our little buzzwords around the thought of the change, more buzzwords around how we are supposed to operate and even more buzzwords about how “transformational” the change will be.

But we don’t define the deliverables. We don’t create next actions for employees to work to achieve the change. And we don’t know how to measure our progress to see if we are really achieving our goals.

But we have our buzzwords.

In a buzzword heavy world, it’s scary how the words actually take over, and how little there is to back them up.

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