Said Wittgenstein. Language in business and organizations creates frames, but also limitations. And we have lots of these frames. ‘Employee Engagement’, ‘Talent Management’, ‘Change Management’ for example, are common frames for anybody in business, but, for an alien they are far from clear conceptual entities. By using a particular language we infer that everybody will have a common understanding of what is meant, but some of these ‘concepts’ have many varying interpretations.
‘Change management’ is perhaps at the top of the abuse charts. It’s use in IT puts a simple accent on ‘making the new IT system live’. It’s use in project management, in mergers & acquisitions and in cultural change has however very different meanings. By calling something ‘change management’, far from creating shared understanding, we are creating a limitation of understanding. This limitation of the language creates in itself, limitations in the world of management.
Other bits of management dialect that have set up permanent camp in the organizational landscape, have become standard jargon which, because of their progressive lack of meaning, as before, create limitations in the world of management. Try to have a conversation these days on ‘empowerment’ and you’ll see the smiles of people around begging for a definition of some sort. And better that, than continuing the conversation assuming that everybody ‘knows what we are talking about’
Tribal language – and business language is tribal – can’t be suppressed, only substituted. An injection of clarity and plain language would do us all a favour.
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