Friday, February 17, 2012

Kim Williams v. Don Watson, and we understand Watson is packing so he can take a laser-like path true north ...

(Above: a Korean coffee cup with a heartfelt message, found here, with a link to a piece in the Korean Times on Konglish here).

The pond was driven into a state of ecstasy by the revelation of Kim Williams' corporate writing style in Memo from Kim Williams: 'a laser-like focus on our customer needs'.

We have to assume it's genuine of course, and that Crikey isn't leg-pulling and didn't hire someone from The Chaser to dolly up a deviant send-up.

It should keep Don Watson going for years. He might even get another book out of it. But what could he call it?

Death Sentences Two: how cliches, weasel words and management speak are strangling public language and internal office memos in Murdoch land?

Was it way back in 2003 when Watson scored laughter with this RMIT gibberish?

"To provide outcome-related research and consultancy services that address real-world issues" - shrieks of laughter. The university's "approach to quality management is underpinned by a strong commitment to continuous improvement and a whole-of-organisation framework" - uproar in the room. (Fighting the death sentence).

How would he cope with Williams' opening volley regarding the issues in the company and its future priorities?

At the session I outlined the direction and broad governing vision for the ongoing transformation program for News Limited. I have been developing this program with the Executive Team in order to respond in a connected, appropriate, fashion to the incredibly competitive, rapidly changing world in which we all live. Our mission is to see the company prosper and thrive in that environment and to ensure it does so through adopting fresh and relevant approaches that are relevant to the needs of consumers and advertisers.

All great words, incredibly connected and appropriate, enough splattered about like a broken egg to make Humpty Dumpty proud. In relation to a fresh and relevant mission (with relevant repeated for relevant emphasis), but surely the killer is the 'ongoing transformation program', which in the next par becomes a 'transformation journey and its priorities'.

But wait, there's more, lots more, because in the fifth par, Williams goes epic polar explorer or perhaps coastal mariner:

This new world brings enormous opportunity — if we are smart, and agile in our responses then we will flourish. We must relish the challenges we confront and drive ahead with confident responses built on close attention to consumers as our true north at all times.

Well I guess that rules out a good old-fashioned magnetic compass, and never mind the declination, but how quaint to see such a buzz phrase out of the cupboard and flaunting itself for all to see in an office memo. Could Williams be a closet Lord Alfred Tennyson reader?

The prayer of many a race and creed, and clime--
Thunderless lightnings striking under sea
From sunset and sunrise of all thy realm,
And that true North, whereof we lately heard
A strain to shame us 'keep you to yourselves;
So loyal is too costly! friends--your love
Is but a burthen: loose the bond, and go.'
Is this the tone of empire?

Apparently Lord Alf was pleased with the Canadians when he wrote that, and next thing you know the bloody Canadians had shoved it into their national anthem, perhaps the most ponderous dirge on the planet:

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
(go on, you desperately want to read the wiki on the Canadian national anthem here).

But we digress, and as an anxious consumer wanting to be true north to News Ltd, I want some more jargon. Sock it to me Mr. Williams:

The key to our ongoing success will be seen in ensuring every one of us puts customers at the heart of everything we do. For our editorial teams, this means our consumers. For our sales teams, our advertisers, and for support functions like HR and IT, it means for our own people.

Similarly, we must be data and outcome-driven in our planning, aiming to satisfy customers in all our decisions. We must ensure we take the right actions in the secure knowledge of where our customers’ preferences and aspirations lie.

Oh sweet nectar of blather, what with secure knowledge, and preferences and aspirations, and the customers at the heart of everything they do ... well at least the hard core of right wing ratbag customers who can't get enough rhetoric about the evils of anything to the left of Gengis Khan.

But wait there's more, and with important steak knife corollaries:

There are two important corollaries to our customer commitment and focus on data and its reflection in our results-driven planning. First, that we will provide the best quality journalism and compelling content and second, that we will invest in engaging and developing the capabilities of our people. The importance of our journalistic quest for the best, and similarly to develop our people, is self evident to our future success.

Yes self-evident compelling content on a quest involving a focus and reflection which will arise from results-driven planning.

We must work as one united company, delivering ever better products across a diverse range of technologies, each with different characteristics meeting different consumer needs.

Oh dear, there's more. Diverse and different.

Um, the pond's starting to feel a little adjectived and adverbed out, a little in need of a glass of red, and yet it's the morning hours. What do when confronted with such an unholy sight at such an ungodly hour? How to cope with being spaced out by an encounter with corporate verbal diahorrea?

Must we go on? Yes we must:

Finally we must ensure we are at all times accountable for our plans and the outcomes from our actions. That accountability in pursuit of agreed objectives will be dependent on individuals stepping up to take responsibility for their own actions and the outcomes that follow from them.

Accountability and responsibility. Just what my sixth class teacher stressed way way when!

You will all have seen last week’s shared service announcements for Production, HR and sub-editing. The intention here is to allow us to achieve functional excellence in these areas whilst liberating the divisions to focus on their consumers, advertisers and communities. We have to ensure our products reflect a personality and commitment; I have described to senior executives how we must be ‘of, from, about, and above all, for the community’. Our community connections and responsibilities need thoughtful and constantly vigilant focus.

Thoughtful constant vigilance to achieve functional excellence and liberation, with bonus personality and commitment.

Oh dear, this is turning into a real struggle, really hard work.

But the pond can do the hard yards, taking the ball up the middle in a true north way. Can we now go futurist?

These priorities reflect what is required of the executive leaders and all our teams across the country: to have a laser-like focus on our customer needs and to empower each other to make informed decisions that will benefit the whole company as it undertakes a substantial change to better reflect compelling responses to our changed world.

Focus. Laser. Feel the focus Luke ...

Just the laser-like cliche we were looking for. Something we can constructively engage with via a regular, ongoing engaging and engaging, communicating and communicative, communications program.

I am eager to ensure this transformation provides a clear road map and clarity on the objectives which underpin it, so that we can all constructively engage with it. From mid 2012 we will launch a new national intranet. It will contain helpful information, resources and tools to enable you to do your job better and feel better informed about News. The intranet will play a central role in future communications — hosting news about the company with executive updates which will include video messages.

Video updates via the intranet. Orwellian visions of the ruler of Oceania. Oh sweet joy ...

And now - with some hefty cutting and laser-like trimming - we arrive at last at the final par:

As ever, your thoughts or comments are welcome, so please do not hesitate to send an email with any feedback or suggestions for consideration as we enter a remarkable era which will reflect renewed energetic devotion to our customers with continuing commitment to innovation in the diverse products we produce.

A perfect trifecta or maybe a quadrella. A remarkable energetic renewal offering an innovative and diverse range of cliches.

Presumably Don Watson has already left the country and is heading north ... to Alaska.

The memo reminded the pond of South Korea, a country which has perfected the art of mangling English - it's way better than Japan or China at the art - in a way that is guaranteed to enthral the average tourist. Koreans love to fling disconnected English words together - new feeling of beverage - but they have an excuse.

After reeling away from Williams' memo, the pond suddenly had a deep and heartfelt concern for the hacks at News Ltd. There's not one whit or jot of sense to the entire construct, and a decent subbie could have reduced it all to a sentence - 'things are on the move, things are changing, and I'll be getting back to you with the plans.'

But at least there's one consolation to the hacks who are going to get rolled in the coming months. (News confirms senior editor redundancies).

At least they won't have to read any more memos by Williams ... which is just as well because there's not a single coherent idea led or useful point made in the entire bout of verbosity.

And now for the capper. Williams was so proud of the memo, it wasn't a leak to Crikey. They ran it in full in the media section of The Australian, and probably other organs of record used to transcribing the thoughts of their masters, as if it was some kind of Churchillian communication to the troops as they prepare to invade Normandy ... or head true north (warning direct link to the heart of darkness here) ...

Oh there'll be a wailing and a gnashing of teeth amongst the genuine journalists who work at News - and for all the pond carries on about the hacks, there are some good writers at work in the place, interested in language and ideas.

And then there are the other hacks. The ones that do beat-ups that spread hatred, fear and loathing like the Daily Terror's recent front page Welcome, asylum seekers - Chris Bowen and Julia Gillard's ship of fortune.

Is this your laser like vision Kim Williams? After a hard day's memo-writing, do you sleep well at night? Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night, and wonder how an egg-beater got into your hand? Do you ever look in a mirror? Or do you just slip a little Bach onto the gramophone, and relax, after a hard day's work abusing the most hapless in the community?

Whatever. Along with the refugee bashing, we seem to be living with the death of the English language as once it was writ ... and now must settle for a blizzard, or perhaps a blitzkrieg of laser-like gibberish ...

But at least Christopher Pearson will be comfortable. Who'd have thought that even he could turn out prose with more point than Williams?

(Below: laser-light vision?

That's not a vision. This is a vision ... heavenly laser-light of true north indifferent English ...

1 comment:

  1. Blather. And they say he's in charge?
    Thanks for sparing us from reading the full missive.


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