Jargon-Busting and Plain English

At the recent Kilkenomics festival one of the shows (Jargon-Busting) featured economists & comedians give their interpretation of many economic terms. Aside from the normal economists interpretation the comedians gave their ‘alternative’ interpretations many of which seemed to be closer to reality than the normal meanings.  No wonder economics is called the dismal science as very few economists apart from Colm McCarthy and David McWilliams have the gift of translating it into plain English that makes great sense.

It started me thinking about the proliferation of jargon and the over-complication of language.

For a long time, I’ve had an issue with the language used by solicitors in legal documents which to me seems to be written not in English but in their own entirely different language called ‘legalese’.   Their practice seems to be to use as many words as possible to over-complicate rather than to make documents transparent. Accountants, IT providers, tax experts can all fall into the same trap if they aren’t careful.   Some ‘Lean’ consultants seem to put as much focus on learning some Japanese terminology as ensuring delivery of the actual process improvements.   Why do we need Japanese terms to describe waste elimination, process improvements and for the mission, vision, goals, and annual objectives to be communicated effectively throughout organizations?

But I hear you say that business is complicated and that’s why ‘jargon’ has increased. Do business owners need to deal with Jargon-speakers or should they demand plain English in all their communications?

As Leonardo Da Vince said: ‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’.    This applies to systems, structures and terminology.   With over-complication of systems, structures and language there a danger of losing sight of the actual business fundamentals?

Most business owners need to focus on whether their business is getting the correct solutions to some simple & basic questions such as:

  • Who are my key customers as distinct from just customers?
  • What are their crucial needs in terms of quality, price, service etc.?
  • What is my USP that attracts key customers?
  • How can I extend this to a wider audience?
  • Do I have the right metrics to determine my most profitable products/customers etc.?
  • Have I measurements on weekly sales & profits?
  • Do I have adequate finance for the next 3-6 months?
  • Have I explored alternative sources of finance?
  • Are all my staff working towards the same goal as myself?
  • Are there problems that I’m avoiding dealing with?
  • Have I applied the 80:20 principle to determining where and how I can improve my business performance?

If you or your business is inhibited by any element of over-complexity or jargon-speak from economists, accountants, lawyers, bankers, solicitors or advisors then perhaps it’s time to look for some jargon-busting talk and plain English.