As I was rifling through my pockets today looking for a receipt, I came across a folded piece of paper from a couple weeks ago. It was notes from a meeting of the “Y2K Documentation Task Force” that I sat in on.
Thankfully, I am not a member of this Task Force (every time I hear “Task Force” I think of that “S.W.A.T.” TV show, with all the guys in flak jackets and M-16s bailing out of the back of the police van – hut-hut, hut-hut-hut). I hate few things more than sitting around a conference table wasting time listening to a bunch of corporate types try to sound important. But this time I was roped into it and couldnt avoid sitting in a meeting – one of my systems was being discussed, and like a good contractor, I have made my systems so nobody understands them but me.
There were six people in this particular meeting – myself and another contractor, and four employees, including the manager in charge of Y2K mitigation. This was the worst – not only stuck in a meeting, but a meeting led by the most full of himself, conceited, “my idea must be right, because after all, it is MY idea” manager in the building. Every time I talk to this guy, I am reminded of a schoolyard taunt my wife says they used to use on stuck-up kids – “You think youre hot snot on a silver platter, but youre really just cold boogies on a paper plate!” Nyah nyah na-nyah nyah nyah.
So this manager is pontificating while the other five of us sit around with our collective thumbs up our asses, and I am taking notes so I can remember all the REALLY important stuff he says. Ive never been a good note-taker. Its not that I dont know how, or that I cant, I just find that if I listen well in most situations I can remember enough of the highlights to get me by.
My note-taking quickly degenerated into doodling, but I soon grew bored with that. Looking around, I could see that the ongoing gush of BS coming out of this managers mouth was putting everybody into a trance. See, since this guy is totally full of himself, he loves to listen to himself talk. And to top it off, he thinks he can make his talking a meaningful experience for his listeners by using every single stupid corporate cliche he can come up with.
I started to zero in on this irritating habit when he spit out one of my favorites – “Weve got to try to walk the talk here, people.” What the hell does THAT mean? This guy talks like this all the time – he always sounds like he just stepped out of a “Seven Habits for Instilling Total Quality in Your Intellectual Assets By Using Six Sigma Tools” seminar.
So I started keeping a list of the corporate cliches this manager was using – for entertainment purposes only, of course:
1) “Walk the talk…”
2) “Get everyones buy-in…” (what exactly is buy-in? If this guys selling it, Im not buying)
3) “Building our customers expectations…”
4) “Weve got to stop the bleeding…” (bad mental image)
5) “We can get our arms around it…” (twice)
6) “My gut reaction brainstorming says…” (not really a cliche, but a funny mish-mosh of words that makes me picture him with his guts swirling about and a thundercloud crashing around his head)
7) “Its not cast in concrete…” (if youre going to use a cliche, at least get it right – couldnt you afford the stone?)
8) “Well get our hands around it…” (implying that its a smaller problem than one we have to get our arms around?)
9) “Dont put the cart before the horse…”
10) “Well get a handle on the solution…” (is that before or after we get our arms around it?)
11) “Well talk offline…” (I HATE that one – does that mean this conversation is actually happening in a chat room, and Im only hallucinating that there are actual people here?)
12) “Lets try to all get on the same page…”
And my personal favorite –
13) “Weve got to put our finger in the dyke…” (takes a brave man to use that one – in our Politically Correct world, saying that is like stepping into a minefield)
He used all of the above in a space of THIRTY (30) minutes. Whew!
The funniest part of this whole thing was that when I was about halfway through my list, the contractor sitting next to me noticed what I was doing. Every time the manager would toss one of these phrases on to the dung-heap of cliches piling up in front of him, the other contractor would make a face at me. It was all we could do to keep from devolving into snickering and giggling like a couple of eight year-olds.