Council leaders have banned some 200 examples of the worst management jargon. But there are signs they’ve fallen into the lazy-writing trap themselves.
A press release from the Local Government Association published today says that words such as ‘slippage’ (meaning delay), ‘benchmark’ (measure) and ‘procure’ (buy) are all out. So are management clichÃ©s like ‘thinking outside the box’.
Many of the old favourites, like ‘blue-sky thinking’, ‘paradigm’ and ‘synergy’ are on the banned list. But so are some real howlers that we’ve never heard of, such as ‘predictors of beaconicity’ (eh?).
We’ve long argued that such terms and phrases are a barrier to clear communication (see here, here and here). They’re also a sign of lazy thinking. Using words like ‘functionality’ and ‘rebaselining’ (yes, really) are a sure sign that the author isn’t taking time to consider what they really want to say (let alone thinking about the poor reader).
Words andÂ phrasesÂ like these are also a great hiding place for someone who doesn’t want to say anything that might rock the boat, as we reported here last week.
But there are some signs of laziness amongÂ the LGA themselves. Take a look at the list below and you might wonder about the suitability of some of the alternatives they offer. ‘Money’ is not really a substitute for ‘funding streams’ for example (the latter being much more specific).
Simply implying that ‘cascading’ is redundant without giving an alternative suggests the list was compiled by a public-relations hack with no understanding of management. And erroneously suggesting adjectives like ‘healthy’ as direct alternatives for nouns like ‘wellbeing’ may give serial offenders an excuse to dismiss the list as badly thought out.
Don’t get me wrong. I hate the way many managers stuff their reports full of meaningless pap. Indeed, we spend our working lives weaning them off their thesaurus dependency. But jargon isn’t always the bogeyman.
Good writing is about a lot more than simply avoiding jargon. Although using the LGA’s list,Â with a few exceptions,Â is a good start.
The LGAâ€™s list of 200 words and their â€˜alternativesâ€™
Across-the-piece â€“ everyone working together
Actioned â€“ do
Advocate – support
Agencies – groups
Ambassador – leader
Area based â€“ in an area
Area focused â€“ concentrating on the area
Autonomous – independent
Baseline â€“ starting point
Beacon â€“ leading light
Benchmarking – measuring
Best Practice â€“ best way
Blue sky thinking â€“ thinking up ideas
Bottom-Up â€“ listening to people
CAAs – why use at all?
Can do cultureÂ – get the job done
Capacity – ability
Capacity building – enough room in the system
Cascading -Â why use at all?
Cautiously welcome â€“ devil in the detail
Challenge – problem
Champion â€“ best
Citizen empowerment Ââ€“ people power
Client – person
Cohesive communities â€“ why use at all?
Cohesiveness – together
Collaboration â€“ working together
Commissioning – buy
Community engagement â€“ getting people involved
Compact – why use at all?
Conditionality ÂÂ- why use at all?
ConsensualÂ – everyone agrees
Contestability – Why use at all?
Contextual – background
Core developments â€“ main things that are happening
Core Message Ââ€“ main point
Core principles – beliefs
Core Value â€“ belief
Coterminosity â€“ all singing from the same hymn sheet
Coterminous â€“ all singing from the same hymn sheet
Cross-cutting â€“ everyone working together
Cross-fertilisation â€“ spreading ideas
Customer â€“ people/person
Democratic legitimacy â€“ voted in
Democratic mandate â€“ elected to put people first
Dialogue â€“ talk/discuss
Direction of travel â€“ way forward
Distorts spending priorities â€“ ignores peopleâ€™s needs
Double devolution – Why use at all?
Downstream – Why use at all?
Early Win â€“ success
Edge-fit – Why use at all?
Embedded â€“ set in
Empowerment â€“ people power
Enabler – helps
Engagement â€“ working with people
Engaging users Ââ€“ getting people involved
Enhance â€“ improve
Evidence Base â€“ research shows
Exemplar â€“ example
External challenge â€“ outside pressures
Facilitate â€“ help
Fast-Track â€“ speed up
Flex – Why use at all?
Flexibilities and FreedomsÂ – more power to do the right thing
Framework â€“ guide
Fulcrum â€“ pivot
Functionality – use
Funding Streams – money
Gateway review – Why use at all?
Going forward â€“ in the future
Good Practice â€“ best way
Governance – Why use at all?
Guidelines â€“ guide
Holistic â€“ taken in the round
Holistic governance – Why use at all?
Horizon scanning – Why use at all?
Improvement levers â€“ using the tools to get the job done
Incentivising â€“ incentive
Income Streams â€“ money/cash
Indicators – measurements
Initiative â€“ idea
Innovative capacity – Why use at all?
Inspectorates â€“ monitoring bodies
Interdepartmental â€“ working together
Interface â€“ talking to each other
Iteration – version
Joined up â€“ working together
Joint working â€“ working together
LAAs – Why use at all?
Level playing field â€“ everyone equal
Lever – Why use at all?
Leverage – influence
Localities Ââ€“ places/town/city/village
Lowlights â€“ worst bits
MAAsÂ – Why use at all?
Mainstreaming – Why use at all?
Management capacity – Why use at all?
Meaningful consultationâ€“ talking to people
Meaningful dialogue â€“ talking to people
Mechanisms – methods
Menu of Options â€“ choices
Multi-agency Ââ€“ many groups
Multidisciplinary â€“ many
Municipalities â€“ towns/cities/areas
Network model – Why use at all?
Normalising â€“ make normal
Outcomes â€“ results
Outcomes – focused
Output – results
Outsourced – privatised
Overarching – Why use at all?
Paradigm – Why use at all?
Parameter – limits
Participatory â€“ joining in
Partnership working â€“ working together
Partnerships â€“ working together
Pathfinder â€“ Why use at all?
Peer challenge – Why use at all?
Performance Network – Why use at all?
Place shaping â€“ creating places where people can thrive
Pooled budgets – money
Pooled resources â€“ time and money
Pooled risk – Why use at all?
Populace – people
Potentialities – chances
Practitioners – experts
Predictors of Beaconicity â€“ Why use at all?
Preventative services â€“ protecting the most vulnerable
Prioritization â€“ most important
Priority â€“ most important
Proactive – Why use at all?
Process driven â€“ shouldnâ€™t everything be people driven?
Procure – buy
Procurement – buying
Promulgate – spread
Proportionality -Â in proportion
Protocol – guidance
Provider vehicles – Why use at all?
Quantum – Why use at all?
Quick Hit â€“ success
Quick Win â€“ success
Rationalisation – cut
Rebaselining – Why use at all?
Reconfigured – reform
Resource allocation â€“ money going to the right place
Revenue StreamsÂ – money
Risk based â€“ safest way
Robust – tough
Scaled-back â€“ cut/reduce
Scoping â€“ work out
Sector wise – Why use at all?
Seedbed â€“ idea
Self-aggrandizement – Why use at all?
Service users â€“ people
Shared priority Ââ€“ all working together
Shell developments – Why use at all?
Signpost â€“ point in the direction of
Single conversations â€“ talking to
Single Point of Contact â€“ everything under one roof
Situational – situation
Slippage â€“ delay
Social contracts Â – deal
Social exclusion â€“ poverty
Spatial – Why use at all?
Stakeholder â€“ other organisations
Step Change â€“ improve
Strategic -Â planned
Strategic priorities – planned
Streamlined â€“ efficient
Sub-regional â€“ work between councils
Subsidiarity â€“ Why use at all?
Sustainable â€“ long term
Sustainable communities â€“ environmentally friendly
Symposium ÂÂâ€“ meeting
Synergies â€“ what use at all?
Systematics – Why use at all?
Taxonomy – Why use at all?
Tested for Soundness Ââ€“ what works
Thematic – theme
Thinking outside of the box – Why use at all?
Third sector â€“ charities and voluntary organisations
Toolkit – guidance
Top-Down â€“ ignores people
Trajectory – route
Tranche – slice
Transactional – Why use at all?
Transformational â€“ change
Transparency – clear
Upstream – Why use at all?
Upward trend â€“ getting better
Utilise – use
Value-added â€“ extra
Vision Ââ€“ ideal/dream/belief
Visionary â€“ ideal/dream/belief
Welcome â€“ necessary and needed/step in the right direction
Wellbeing – healthy
Worklessness – unemployed