People Management

Five corporate, empty phrases

Photo by Pressmaster from Pexels

End of quarter is coming, so brace yourselves for these ‘powerful’ phrases coming into your inbox, hidden in various emails!

We will leverage our core competencies” – few companies really have core competencies, because in most cases, work is outsourced to poor countries to reduce operational cost. At the same time, corporations aim to get more bang for the buck or as a Pepsi slogan used to say “more bounce to the ounce”, meaning they don’t look for experts with a lower cost, but for people who can do everything for nothing. Once listed on the stock market and getting run by boards of directors, corporations are driven to get a piece of every cake that’s in front of them: public sector, industrial, FMCG, transportation, web, mobile, java, SAP, RPA, any possible flavour. That means they will become ‘competent’ in whatever is needed (there are actual business models for that!), but nothing will be ‘core’. I personally believe in Adam Smith’s division of labour who realized nearly 250 years ago (1776 to be more specific) that specialization is key to greater productivity and lower prices.

We implement scalable solutions” meaning we will take this one single solution and either expand it in the same company for another 100 departments or sell it to everyone else, anywhere in the world in the exact same form. Well, it doesn’t work like that, because every new country, culture or context implies customization. Has anyone tried to scale the same ‘solution’ they had in January 2020, three months later, during the pandemic? It didn’t quite work, did it? Because reality shows we have to constantly adapt!

We need to reach consensus” This one is a bit tricky. The customer is paying you so obviously the customer has the final word on a lot of decisions. The problem is you got hired as an expert and you have reasons to recommend a solution. If you bring in an expert and a complete outsider and they have to reach consensus on the expert’s topic, most likely you will end up with a poor quality solution. It’s usually because when the expert comes in with proper and up to date solutions, the client will say: “that’s not how we do things here”. Then why do you want to change?

We need to drive results” – if only it were that simple… Results are yielded by our actions and focus is important. So is prioritization. But besides this phrase giving us comfort and dripping honey to our stakeholders’ ears, fact is we’re not that almighty and we don’t “drive” the results. We can keep focus on ways to achieve them however. Since we’ve chosen this metaphor, you can be a good driver going through some rough terrain and be able to surpass a bad road safely, but only if your passengers trust you. If they start shouting directions at you or pulling your wheel however they think it’s safer (this is a metaphor for audit and directives from higher management along with endless review meetings), you will for sure have an accident.

We empower our employees”. No you don’t, trust me. Corporations always operate within frameworks, guidelines and strict rules. You can’t empower people to get to a result and be innovative as long as you attach a ball and chain to their feet. Have you read this article on micromanagement?

What about you? Do these phrases sound familiar? Name one buzz phrase you got in your last quarterly results email.

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