September 18th, 2004

breaking bad

implement quality function deployment

I've just been reading Simon Hoggart in the Guardian, protesting as he always does the use of gobbledygook in official documents.

I went to the launch of Don Watson's new book 'Gobbledygook: How cliches, sludge and management speak are strangling our public language.'... this kind of nonsense seems to infest the entire English speaking world.... I asked Don if he felt the people who use the language knew what it meant. He thought they didn't, but that they knew how to make it look roughly as if they did.... My view is that the jargon is like Lego which you can use to construct bigger and bigger structures, which don't fall apart, but which don't resemble anything at all.'

This is actually an area about which I know a lot, because my job is to process, assemble and generally edit his kind of gobbledygook. The truth is that the practitioners vary widely in their relation to the product. Some aren't very bright, and just have a vague idea that they have to churn out the stuff until they reach a certain number of words. Some are very bright, and use the technique to move the tenor of discourse covertly in a particular direction, so that public policy ends up meeting their own agenda, without anybody noticing the process. Most are somewhere in the middle, though distressingly many fall at the 'not very bright' end of the spectrum.

My organisation is at the start of another round of policy and strategy document formation, and I'm going to try and post from time to time about the gobbledygook that passes under my nose, and whether I have any success at all in making it into real communication.