Ten thoughts from ten years in the Public Sector; #09 Swahili…

…why we should stop speaking it and never mind the bollocks!

Samuel Johnson (famous chap) said Bluster is the last refuge of the scoundrel.  I think he’s onto something.  Especially when it comes to the Public Sector.  I made the note below on a mild sunny day in late March (remember them?) after a typical meeting a couple of years ago.  It was the sort of meeting I’ve often attended during the last few years; it could have been almost any day.

At this particular meeting, which was of the CELP, we discussed the changed role of the SRP, the CSP, the CLAA, the CLIP, the SIP and the evolution of the CEDE from the original LSP and its role within the LAA and the MAA, naturally this led someone to discuss the removal of RDA’s, the demise of BL’s, the emergence of LEP’s, the CLEP (not CELP), the EBP, the role of the CEBP and CBEC, who it was noted were members of BCCI with close ties to CLEAN and the NFEA, but not E4a or A4e.  The meeting was chaired by a representative from a local B&E school who remembered the time of EFAC, which was delivered by CREA and RWN and which was funded by RRC (who had funded MTI’s) and WLR (or URC as it was sometimes known) who had also supported the creation of WCBC (now BECBC) as well as WCDA.  The chair was supported by a regional SSA who was familiar with the work of BIS, CLG (formerly DCLG of course!) and DOE (not DOA) and she referred to funding from the NWDA.  The meeting was scheduled to finish with a discussion about the role of RGF and RDPE, however someone raised the topic of the revised role of the SSC’s and particularly the NWAA, which it was noted was not the NWEAA but was similar to the WAF (not the RAF) and was closely linked to MAS.  Someone mentioned the newly formed ESLF website and asked how this linked to KF, SLDC, CCC and the RES and then asked if the KRAP (Kendal Regeneration Action Plan of course!) still applied.  There was some confusion about the role of the CIA (Cumbria Inward Investment Agency) and no ERDF was involved…get the picture?

Don’t worry if you didn’t get the picture, many of the people in the room didn’t either.  Nothing memorable came of the meeting; how could it? Oh, and in case you’re wondering the service users (those pesky customers the services were supposed to support) were never mentioned.

How I wish someone had used the word Bollocks to bring the meeting back to reality.  A wonderful unambiguous word I’m sure most of us have used at some time, and whatever you think of it, we are left in no doubt as to its meaning.

The language the Public Sector speaks may as well be Swahili or Klingon; it is utterly unintelligible to the vast majority of people on Planet Earth.  “Indicators and Predictors of Beaconicity”, “Stakeholder Synergies”, “Market Making Facilitation”, “Cascading”, “Holistic Governance”, “Coterminous”, “Capacity Building”, “Downstream”, “Integrated Cascading Information Flows”, “Horizon Scanning”, “Improvement Levers”, “Subsidiarity”, “Thinking outside the Box”, “Transactional”, “Transformational” and last but not least, “Upstream Value Added Synergies”.  Those of us that look in confusion on such phrases and words are made to feel like the fool in the story of the Kings Clothes.

By hiding their activity in an alien language, the public sector remains a closed shop.  This is counter-productive because it means that it contains the same old familiar faces with the same old ideas.  If the world of the public sector is really serious about innovating and finding new and more effective ways of doing things then it needs to be exposed to as much new thinking and as many sources of ideas as possible, this simply won’t happen unless the language, which alienates so many of us changes.

The message for the Public Sector; less bluster and more bollocks please.  Campaign for Plain English please take note!


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