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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Speaking plainly

Browsing the Daily Telegraph website I notice that they report on the Plain English Campaign announcement of the winners of its Golden Bull award for incomprehensible gobbledegook. Some of the examples they give are real beauties such as this one from Peter Manselson:

Lord Mandelson on MPs' expenses (Foot in Mouth award winner)

Perhaps we need not more people looking round more corners but the same people looking round more corners more thoroughly to avoid the small things detracting from the big things the Prime Minister is getting right.

Translation: MPs don't need more scrutiny, just better scrutiny.

One does worry when organisations responsible for education and skills fall into the trap of producing incomprehensible gobbledook but then that is quite common in my experience, much like this one:

LSIS (Learning and Skills Improvement Service) consultation booklet

The government calls insistently for more innovation. But doing things in a new way will not necessarily lead to better outcomes. So, what do we mean by innovation? We share the thinking of, for example, the Work Foundation, which sees innovation not ‘as a set of discrete and singular moments of change’ but rather as ‘a culture or process in which drivers of change are embedded in and facilitated by the strategic outlook of the organisation’.

To draw an analogy from nature, innovation may be thought of as the new season’s growth rather than a series of isolated bright ideas.

Translation: Change is, like, a state of mind, you know?

My favourite though is the health and safety booklet that has been written in such a way as to give you a funny turn just trying to understand it:

JMJ Associates employee health and safety document

Principle 4: IIF begins with a conversation for possibility… In the domain of safety, we have found people often do not distinguish between the conversations for possibility and conversations for probability, two vastly different conversations that produce vastly different results. Conversations for probability are common in organisational life, and they help predict the future based on what has occurred in the past. Conversations for possibility are much less common and they help us create futures that we could not have predicted from the past, something ‘making the impossible possible’. The language of probability owns the mind and the language of possibility owns the heart; once the heart has embraced what is possible, the mind will never see things the same again.”

Translation: We know the building probably won’t catch fire, but it might, and you should prepare for it.

Principle 7: IIF leaders see the world through multiple lenses, through the subjective domains of intentions, purposes, values and culture, and the objective domains of performance, measurement and results. Incident and Injury-Free leaders understand intuitively that these domains are not in conflict but rather, they are mutually supportive; they are each facets of the one real world we live and work in.

Translation: Health and safety officers are special, special people.

Principle 9: IIF is a journey, not a destination.

Translation: Do not, under any circumstances, put this health and safety booklet at the bottom of a drawer and never read it again.
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