Traditional signs of approaching armageddon include famines, earthquakes and (if you happen to be in a Simpsons movie) the fatal dissolving of a rock band’s barge in polluted lake water.

I guess what we're really asking is: do you think you can contribute to the transformative culture of embedded change around here?

To this chilling list of end-of-days omens, I would like to add: opaquely-worded advertisements for jobs which seem to exist in dimensions accessible only to those fluent in management-ese.

Take, as just one terrifying example, the large “worker wanted” ad I snipped from a prominent page in a Sydney broadsheet newspaper not too many Saturdays ago. It announces that a “Change Manager – Transformation Leader” is required for a “newly created step change role, within a recently amalgamated business of 7000+ employees”.

So far so promising. After all, what child doesn’t say that when they grow up they want to be a doctor, astronaut or Change Manager – Transformation Leader? Certainly many of my fondest childhood memories are of gathering with my little chums to amalgamate businesses and step change 7000+ drones.

Let’s read on.

“As part of the executive team, you will… be responsible for driving a transformation program across several major streams. This organisational reform will increase efficiencies and effectiveness, improve service delivery and build more effective stakeholder relations.”

Hmmm. Obviously the major streaming business has something to do with the ad’s accompanying graphic (it depicts colourful people rowing a canoe over the slogan “talent with impact”). But how does this fit in with all those reformees relating to each other’s steps while holding stakes?

Part two sheds a sum total of zero light on the situation.

“To succeed in this role you will have extensive experience: directing large scale, complex reform programs using best practice methodologies; introducing new operating business models; engaging staff; and embedding a culture of change.”

Holy crap! Operating on business models? Embedding a culture of change? Are these things even legal without anaesthetic?

While I’m as passionate about commercial acumen as the next innovative strategist, there’s something terribly unsettling about recruiting personnel for a position whose exact nature cannot be articulated in plain English.

Given that no line of business, employer or tangible duties are named, who knows what lies behind these administrative euphemisms and senior management shibboleths?

Driving a transformation program could mean anything, including sacking all teachers whose surname starts with “P”, or – as George Saunders suggests in his short story Pastoralia – feeding staff less food and more chemical constipators in order to reduce the costs associated with biological output disposal.

So please join me in signalling our strong disinterest in such weasel wording before it’s too late and the corporate zombie apocalypse organisationally embeds us all.

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51 comments

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    • Macca says:

      06:39am | 09/08/12

      A Change Manager is actually a relatively common HR type role in large organizations. In essence it’s a project manager that recognizes the biggest impediment to change in a organization is people.

      In the most undergrad of explanations, the role will be required to create a vision or future state for the project, identify the shared needs of the people inside and outside the organization (how does this make more money, my life easier, or a better product?), overcome stakeholder barriers to the change, and implement tools on all of the above over an extended period.

      Now, I can completely understand why all of the above looks like crap; companies don’t do this well, and I’ve come across few HR professionals who are diverse and resilient enough to work through all those steps, and also actually get how change impacts the operations in the organization.

      Any large, complex organization has changes that need to be managed to ensure the workplace remains productive during the period of change. I’ve seen few companies do this well.

      The above article could easily be referred to an IT ad; it would probably be complete Splanglish to me. But that just means I am not the target audience for the role, the same way the author is not going to become a Change Manager.

    • Switch says:

      02:24pm | 09/08/12

      You are kidding, right?

      Ten years ago there were plenty of IT roles being advertised, and approximately zero “Change Manager” roles. Today, the Change Manager rules the job advertisements. Change Management is very in-vogue amongst those who do very little indeed.

      Just another example of HR job justification.

    • acotrel says:

      10:43pm | 09/08/12

      HR sections are only about hire and fire and training, not continual improvement of systems, policies and procedures.  Personnel people don’t have the required expertise, nor do many MBAs.  Many of those cannot achieve real productivity gains, but simply act as toe cutters to change the ratio of profit to wages bill, and thus cause a downwards spiral through loss of technical expertise.

    • Macca says:

      06:39am | 09/08/12

      A Change Manager is actually a relatively common HR type role in large organizations. In essence it’s a project manager that recognizes the biggest impediment to change in a organization is people.

      In the most undergrad of explanations, the role will be required to create a vision or future state for the project, identify the shared needs of the people inside and outside the organization (how does this make more money, my life easier, or a better product?), overcome stakeholder barriers to the change, and implement tools on all of the above over an extended period.

      Now, I can completely understand why all of the above looks like crap; companies don’t do this well, and I’ve come across few HR professionals who are diverse and resilient enough to work through all those steps, and also actually get how change impacts the operations in the organization.

      Any large, complex organization has changes that need to be managed to ensure the workplace remains productive during the period of change. I’ve seen few companies do this well.

      The above article could easily be referred to an IT ad; it would probably be complete Splanglish to me. But that just means I am not the target audience for the role, the same way the author is not going to become a Change Manager.

    • Nathan says:

      07:03am | 09/08/12

      I am sorry but that made perfect sense to me. They fluffed it sure but if you don’t understand don’t apply for it. Its simple they want to bring someone in to work with employees as there are a change in processes obviously a large company that has several departments that need their plan etc…its a HR type roll.

      What a waste of an article.  Never understand why people care about things that don’t affect them and does not affect anyone else negatively.

    • M says:

      07:52am | 09/08/12

      I was wondering If i was the only one who understood all the managerese speak.

    • Inky says:

      08:16am | 09/08/12

      I can sorta get where it’s going. Doesn’t make it any less wanky though.

    • Mahhrat says:

      08:31am | 09/08/12

      To me it reads like someone who is to come and and manage the amalgamation of the new corporation, which will probably involve being the face of that part of the organisation that sheds 1000 of those 7000 jobs.

      I’m only 37 and very junior though, so I might be off.

    • Tatty_Anne says:

      09:08am | 09/08/12

      They could have worded the ad “someone who’s read Who Moved My Cheese? and understood it”.

    • Mahhrat says:

      11:00am | 09/08/12

      @Tatty, I used to have a squishy cheese from that presentation!  I don’t know where it went, but I miss it so.

    • Mouse says:

      07:39am | 09/08/12

      Geez, sounds like the Labor party is advertising for new ministers!  lol :o)

    • Chris L says:

      08:37am | 09/08/12

      The ad didn’t have the required programmatic specificity Danger Mouse grin

    • M says:

      07:50am | 09/08/12

      I could rock that role.

    • Tubesteak says:

      08:14am | 09/08/12

      Most of this comes straight out of the MBA schools and into our Project Managers. One of the most useless employees any organisation can have. They are meant to manage something that they have no real expertise in. They are meant to make decisions because the Director of Operations (for example) doesn’t want to cop the liability if something goes wrong.

      Typical rule of management: if it’s not written down it didn’t happen: if you didn’t write it then you can’t be blamed for it.

      It comes from the culture of blamestorming.

      These people are useless and exist only because people who are meant to be responsible for these things don’t want to take the responsibility because they want to cover their butts.

      I have no respect or time for them.

    • Macca says:

      08:26am | 09/08/12

      Tubesteak, probably right to a fair degree. If Managers had the time and capability to independently manage all the risks regarding the health / safety and performance of their people, we’d have no need for the oxygen thiefs known as HR and OHS professionals.

    • acotrel says:

      08:49am | 09/08/12

      @Macca
      If your management system is well documented and maintained and you use it as a training manual and empower your staff, the job is easy.  Please don’t complain when y our problems are caused by your own laziness and basic insecurities.

    • Tubesteak says:

      09:04am | 09/08/12

      Macca
      My general rule of thumb is that if a manager cannot perform the role of their subordinates then they do not deserve to be their manager.

      I’ve seen a number of people parachuted into an organisation who had no idea what was done and were reliant on their subordinates for how to do things. I’m the type of person that will actively undermine said manager to get them fired because I have no time or respect for those people, either. If you are going to manage me then you need to know more than me or I don’t need someone above me telling me what to do or how to do it.

    • Phillip says:

      09:38am | 09/08/12

      Well said! Best company I ever worked in did not have all these parasite people. Line managers had to take 100% accountability for their people. Staff functions such as personnel.advertising,marketing were outsourced.
      Managers could get the best available consultant advice and input but they had to take accountability if their implemented decidsions were bad etc.
      When I joined another large company I was amazed at their costly and ineffective organisation structure .HR ruled supreme. They were also about to go off a cliff. On one famous day - ‘bloody Thursday’‘- we got rid of just about every staff function with HR being the first to go with all their claptrap. The organisation structure was streamlined and our change management agent was simple - this is your job, here is what we expect from you,this is the training and support you willl be getting - adapt or get out! The result is one of the largest blue chip companies in Australia - from disaster to overwhelming success with an invigorated team of people who are confident in their abilities and have a clear idea of their key performance criteria.

    • acotrel says:

      09:48am | 09/08/12

      @Tubesteak
      ’ If you are going to manage me then you need to know more than me or I don’t need someone above me telling me what to do or how to do it. ‘

      I don’t care what my supervisor knows or does not know as long as the guidelines and goals are defined, and I am allowed to self manage. If someone wants to totally direct my actions, that is fine - however they have to live with me and maintain the status quo, and never expect initiative or creativity.

    • Macca says:

      10:34am | 09/08/12

      @Tubesteak,
      “My general rule of thumb is that if a manager cannot perform the role of their subordinates then they do not deserve to be their manager.”

      Can’t say I agree with that at all, mostly because, the skillset of a manager is completely different to that of a technical expert. On that logic, the head of the RMS would be need to be capable of driving each variety of Bus, Train and Ferry in operation in the City of Sydney just to be able to do his job.

      Managers should understand what their people do, and what results in good performance, but they shouldn’t be required to emulate those skills. They’re required to perform different duties and their skills should match those duties.

    • AdamC says:

      11:05am | 09/08/12

      @Macca, I agree that the leadership component of a manager’s role requires only non-technical skills and expertise. However, were managers act as an escalation point for decisions that cannot be made by frontline staff, they clearly need some technical skills. Or, at the very least, some technical credibility.

    • AdamC says:

      11:06am | 09/08/12

      @Macca, I agree that the leadership component of a manager’s role requires only non-technical skills and expertise. However, where managers act as an escalation point for decisions that cannot be made by frontline staff, they clearly need some technical skills. Or, at the very least, some technical credibility.

    • Tubesteak says:

      01:27pm | 09/08/12

      Macca
      I don’t think the RMS is responsible for public transport. That’s Cityrail or Sydneybuses in which case I would expect the head of each to know what goes on at the coalface from having done it themselves.

      Head of RMS had better know something about traffic management and planning. Not just another cushy seat-warmer that knows management-speak and metrics.

    • PW says:

      06:54pm | 09/08/12

      It’s a safe bet that the CEO of RailCorp cannot drive a train nor is he qualified to do so.

      However, the train crewing managers to whom train drivers directly report certainly can.

    • iansand says:

      08:24am | 09/08/12

      Jargon is useful if everyone understands the jargon.  It is a means of communicating complex concepts in a shorthand way.  If you don’t understand the jargon in that ad you do not have the skills required for the role.  It is stage 1 of the winnowing process.

    • acotrel says:

      08:57am | 09/08/12

      I don’t beieve that what was put up is jargon., and I don’t think there was any intent to exclude the ignorant.  To me it is plain English used about a technical subject.  If you cannot understand what was said, you need to get an education, - and that applies to most fields in industry.  The trouble comes when middle managers and CEOs have closed minds and dismiss this stuff out of hand as being just another ‘flavour of the month’. It is for real.

    • iansand says:

      09:37am | 09/08/12

      That’s what jargon mostly is - plain English to convey a specialised meaning for people familiar with the jargon.  Except for we lawyers, who use latin tags that we all understand.

    • P says:

      09:37am | 09/08/12

      Iansand, I take your point - the language is embedded in one type of corporate culture, navigating it is the first obstacle.

      That doesn’t make it any less awful.

      Acotrel, you have to be joking.

      I know that sounds rude - but your comment is absurd, and reflects everything wrong with many peoples’ idea of education.

      I get that some people can understand the ad, and that’s fine. It’s obviously a type of language common to that area, and one can work through it; and, as Iansand suggests, are required to work through it.

      But to suggest that someone who can’t read it needs an ‘education’ is disgusting. Sure, my university education helped me understand the words. It also made me feel ill. Such pathetic, weasel language is the sign of someone who needs to further their own education.

      Plain, clear, strong English is by far the most difficult to write well. Check out John Milton, or Kurt Vonnegut.

      The language in the above ad is what most of my (university) students think is required to succeed. This is incorrect. To analyse and express complex ideas, often technical language is needed. This is true.

      But English, in all its diverse glory, is capable of doing so in a manner which is clear and precise. Such language in the article quoted from the ad is weak, unclear, and needlessly verbose.

      If somebody can find the entire ad, I’d be quite willing to re-write it all here to demonstrate what I mean.

      Thank you Emma for an amazing article.

    • AdamC says:

      11:23am | 09/08/12

      @iansand, I agree with you. What is reffered to as jargon is usually a specialised language used by professionals in a certain field to more accurately or easily convey technical information. It is only where jargon terms are used outside of the specific communities for whom they are meaningful that problems arise.

      The issue is not jargon itself but people who are unwilling or unable to break-down complex ideas for a wide audience.

    • Gordon says:

      12:32pm | 09/08/12

      You are quite right. The question of whether this type of job is worth doing (they are paying the salary so they can make that call), is a totally different question from the language used, which is simply specialised terms used in a somewhat abstract job.  It’s mockable, but then what isn’t if you work at it?

    • acotrel says:

      10:50pm | 09/08/12

      @P
      You must be very young and naive.  Your education begins when you leave universtity. Even then most of the genuine amongst us do further studies to enhance and reinforce our experience, and become competent.

    • P says:

      03:11pm | 10/08/12

      @acotrel

      That seems a touch ad hominem to me.

      As a long time reader of The Punch (before, you know, I decided that people were wrong - on the Internet, and I needed to fix it), I’ve always enjoyed your lone stands against the Liberal haters.

      Having said that, I understand the point you’re trying to make - education should be defined more broadly than the University.

      But what do you think of the thrust of my earlier post - which, essentially, is that such language is unhelpful and needlessly complex?

      I take Iansand’s and AdamC’s point that it’s reinforced and required in certain types of corportae culture. But in terms of the English used, it doesn’t have to be that way, and it’s stupidly, horribly, awkwardly, and badly written tripe.

      Also, I’m 27. So, relatively, you may be right or wrong about the young part.

    • Chris L says:

      08:32am | 09/08/12

      “Driving a transformation program could mean anything”

      It obviously and quite clearly means taking the wheel when Optimus Prime changes into his truck form.

    • acotrel says:

      08:41am | 09/08/12

      It makes perfect sense to me too.
        In about 1992 Australian Standard AS4360 - Risk Management was written and was a global first.  In business we need to have goals and risk manage our way towards them, recognising that risks have magnitude and potential consequences.
      In any given situation there are four major areas which must be balanced:
      Quality - is about product or service competitiveness and repeat business.
      OHS
      Environment
      Security
      The change is from a directive rule based system to one which is performanve based, and it requires a level of industrial democracy to encourage creativity.
      The stakeholder thing is about safety in the four major areas.
      Safe:
      A situation or condition where the risks are minimised to a level which is tolerable to the stakeholders.

      This might all sound like bullshit, but it is not that.  It is a change of mindset - a paradigm shift. It is essential to our future in a lot of ways.

    • Badjack says:

      09:31am | 09/08/12

      It could have read. Person wanted to tell current employs to change their way of doing things or they can fuck off and get a job elsewhere.

    • acotrel says:

      10:10am | 09/08/12

      It could come down to that, but it would make the whole exercise pointless.  What it takes is a a manager who is not afraid of making themself redundant by writing sufficient guidelines to enable their workers to self manage.  If the system is standards based , it might even result in legal compliance.

    • acotrel says:

      10:13am | 09/08/12

      There is often only one ‘right’ way to do a job, and your workers know what it is.  You should not have to micromanage established procedures.

    • Dieter Moeckel says:

      10:41am | 09/08/12

      I remember when I was a young small school’s principal in the NT I attended several inservice activities with a tutor from a Queensland University Dr, Keith Tronk who had devised a system of bureaucratic ‘bounce’ letter writing where you simply selected phrases from three columns at random and it made bureaucratic sense completely senseless. We had a lot of fun with it.
      Perhaps advertising departments of corporation use the same system to ensure that there is no challenge to the anointed from compulsory outside applicants?

    • acotrel says:

      10:56pm | 09/08/12

      That sort of cynical comment helps nobody.  If you are wondering why Australian industrial practice is grossly inferior to that of the Germans, and we cannot compete on quality , look no further - your attitude is the reason.

    • Wickerman says:

      10:50am | 09/08/12

      Dont forget to:
      Leverage inter-team syngeries to produce a win-win situation going forward with the buy-in from all the stakeholders after the plan is socialised,

    • Dan The Man says:

      08:14pm | 09/08/12

      HAHA! Gold!

      *shoots fingerpistols and winks*

    • Blind Freddy says:

      11:18am | 09/08/12

      If you don’t understand the add, obviously the job isn’t for you.

      Smug illiteracy is the new black.

    • Smugly literate says:

      02:20pm | 09/08/12

      ad not add

    • P says:

      12:10pm | 09/08/12

      *ad; or *advertisement

    • Johnno says:

      12:12pm | 09/08/12

      The job description is pretty obvious: it is either for an axe man to fire ‘em or a box man to watch ‘em pack personal effects and leave the premises after the axe man has struck.

    • Johnno says:

      12:12pm | 09/08/12

      The job description is pretty obvious: it is either for an axe man to fire ‘em or a box man to watch ‘em pack personal effects and leave the premises after the axe man has struck.

    • Bec says:

      12:53pm | 09/08/12

      “Inceasing efficiencies and effectiveness”. That’s a bit ironic. I wonder if they would pay me to re-word their job ad in a more efficient and effective way.

    • Swamp Thing says:

      03:54pm | 09/08/12

      Bah. Nothing but a game of ‘wank word bingo’ the lot of it.

    • acotrel says:

      11:01pm | 09/08/12

      Stick to playing computer games and stay out of the workforce.  ‘The system runs on bullshit’ most of the time.  This is an exzception.

    • acotrel says:

      11:07pm | 09/08/12

      One thing is certain in industry - ‘change will happen’ !
      What do yoiu believe ? :
      ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ ?
      ‘She’ll be right mate’ ?
      ‘A stitch in time saves nine’ ?
      ‘Don’t care was made to care’ ?
      or
      ‘AS IT WAS - SO IT EVER SHALL BE’ ?

 

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