Thursday, 13 December 2012

Workplace Jargon: 2

The thing about field archaeologists, in my experience, is that they call a spade a spade (their work in dealing with past societies telling them that life is too short to do otherwise). The thing about managerial bureaucrats is, in my experience, they get so wrapped up in mystifying their work (in order to justify their own existence) that they would prefer to call a spade a steel-bladed soil interface device.

The trouble with working in a modern University today is that the differing worlds of 'real work' and managerial bureaucracy will not ever collide (nor be satisfactorily joined). There will always be some element of conflict. This conflict is nowhere clearer than in the classroom, as the chief objectives of a university degree programme are, in my opinion, to get the students to work hard, to keep an open mind, think for themselves, question everything and speak / write clearly and intelligently. The chief objectives of bureaucracy are, in my experience, the exact opposite: work as little as possible, maintain a blinkered view, question nothing and speak / write in an obtuse and confusing manner (Douglas Adams, in an all too common moment of quite beautiful clarity, observed that Bureaucracy in its purest form “is a parasite that preys on free thought and suffocates free spirit").

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you an example of the ever expanding gulf between rationality and bureaucratic technobabble taken from a document which I (foolishly in retrospect) opened in the hope that it might explain how a particular element at work (my workplace environment) could help (facilitate) with my teaching (student interfacing) and research (enterprise shopfronting). Here is what the manager (head of enterprise architecture) said to help (facilitate) my understanding (cognitive comprehension) of what his team (workplace collective) could offer (their 'deliverable objectives') and what they hoped to achieve (their 'vision').

To understand business and academic requirements providing an effective and efficient support service for staff, students, the learning and teaching environment and research and enterprise activities to a high level of customer satisfaction

Ok, lost me a bit after ‘understand’, but I think I'm still with you…

To provide information systems which meet the academic and administrative demands and requirements of the University both in terms of functionality and business benefits in improving effectiveness and efficiency and in delivery of learning and teaching as well as research and enterprise

To implement a network and technical infrastructure which has the capacity to support the increasing demand for network bandwidth, database activity and file and document management providing security, resilience and business continuity


To implement a teaching, desktop, mobile working and remote access infrastructure, making use of technological developments to optimise access to information systems to meet a variety of staff and student requirements.

My own particular vision, after reading this gem of plain speaking, is a lot simpler, and one which I will gladly share with you, for it involves the head of enterprise architecture unexpectedly discovering that their operational bandwidth has been enlarged through the judicious application of a steel-bladed soil interface device directly to their insecure and decidedly unresilient career hub.

Now, back to the grindstone (coarse-grained Carboniferous sandstone hand-turned rotary device).


  1. Ah - I can translate all of that for you!

    "We want to give all of you the computer stuff which actually does what you need it to (but we probably won't be able to because we don't have enough money.")

    (I may have added that last bit myself...)

    1. Brilliant - thank all makes sense now!

  2. I can help here too.

    "If we build IT (not it), they will come".

    Too simple & easy to understand? Perhaps that's why I'm not allowed near the create-a-strategy templates.


    1. But, if we don't build IT, where will THEY go?

      I like the idea of create-a-strategy templates mind you. Mine would be to exist outside of all boxes by thinking all day about blue skies...Trouble is, this is all too achievable and strategies, by definition, have to be both incomprehensible and impossible to deliver...