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Jack Smith

He'll have to restrategize his programs in : order to keep up with corporate gobbledygook

January 23, 1986|JACK SMITH

Though I try to keep up on gobbledygook, so I can read my junk mail, I am told by Jan Schrag of Van Nuys that I am behind the times in my grasp of the current "corporate mumble."

Specifically, Schrag says she has noticed my use of the term corporate ladder , which is now out of date.

"There are no corporate ladders in today's business world," she informs me. "They have been stored in a warehouse in Chatsworth, and have been replaced by opportunities for advancement ."

She says that seniors graduating from college know that the corporate ladder is an outdated piece of hardware, and they avoid it in writing their job resumes.

For instance, they will write as follows:

"Objective: A position with a growth-oriented organization that provides opportunities for personal and professional advancement and meaningful financial rewards."

Schrag says that after interviewing many of these young applicants, she has figured out that what they want is "a job where they can move right along and make a lot of money."

With the help of gobbledygook, Schrag says, today's corporations seem to have risen above problems that used to trouble them in the past. In fact, they no longer have any problems.

"At worst," she explains, "they may have areas of concern. " But these areas of concern are welcomed as opportunities for success .

"And since they have no problems," she points out, "they don't need to talk about them. In fact, today's executives don't talk at all--they communicate ."

Since corporations no longer have problems, executives no longer meet to discuss them. "If two or more executives are inspired to communicate about an area of concern," she says, "they touch base ."

And since there are no problems, they find no solutions. What they do is "evaluate data and strategize programs designed to maximize opportunities for success."

The handy old interoffice memorandum, or memo, is also obsolete. The printed note you get today is "information distributed through an internal communications network ."

Internal communications, by the way, are beyond the capacity of a mere typewriter, so businesses have had to acquire computers and word processors to turn them out.

Despite the wonderfully obfuscatory power of gobbledygook, some businesses do go into the red. So how do they react to this unmentionable condition?

"The executives touch base to identify areas of concern and strategize programs with specific objectives designed to grow the business and maximize opportunities for success.

"Get with it, Jack," Schrag concludes. "We're living in a unique era. But I'm convinced it's going to be a meaningful experience and personally and professionally rewarding."

To help me understand the corporate lingo, Schrag appends the following glossary:

"Opportunity for advancement--a job; communicate--talk; internal communications network--memos; financial reward--a paycheck; meaningful financial reward--a bigger paycheck; growing the business--increasing sales and or productivity; touch base--a meeting; opportunity for success--a problem; area of concern--a bigger problem; major area of concern--bankruptcy."

John J. Mehl Jr. of Yorba Linda takes note of another neologism in the field of human imperfection, in which ever-new euphemisms are sought to soften the realities.

He said he was listening to a radio program called "The University Explorer," on research at UC Irvine into hyperactive children. "Only that's not the word anymore," Mehl comments. "They are now said to have an 'attention deficit disorder.' "

That reminds me of the attempt to disguise disabled or handicapped persons as "differently abled."

Peggy Inman of Marina del Rey writes to advise me that "reform movements to the contrary, gobbledygook still reigns in the General Services Administration in Washington, D.C."

Inman is in the unhappy position of having to prepare a bid for GSA for a typewriter contract according to 59 pages of instructions issued by the agency.

"By GSA estimates the successful bidder stands to do $38 million in typewriter sales," she says. "That's not much by government standards, but it would mean a lot to the company for which I work. As the woman responsible for preparing this bid, I must take great care to follow all instructions and include all required information or risk being disqualified on a technicality."

She encloses a page from the instructions, including the following paragraph:

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