Ban on Buzzwords show Lack of Understanding

The body that represents Britain’s local authorities has told its members to stop using management buzzwords like stakeholders and sustainable communities, saying they confuse people and prevent residents from understanding what local governments do.

The Local Government Association, whose members include hundreds of district, town and county councils in England and Wales, on Friday sent out a list of 100 “non-words” that it said officials should avoid if they want to be understood.

The Canadian Press: British authorities told to drop ’empowerment,’ ‘synergy’ and other buzzwords

Now I am all for simplifying communication, but there is also a limit. The terms sustainable communities and stakeholders are not buzzwords, they have been around for years.

The problem lies in that the definitions themselves have not been properly understood nor communicated in most cases. You ask the average executive what the word stakeholder really means, and their eyes will glaze over. You ask the average employee what the word that is suggested instead of stakeholder, namely customer means, and their definitions will shock you.

Most employees believe that the word customer means someone external. The words stakeholder and stakeholder management are also misunderstood.

The term ‘stakeholder management’ refers to the development and implementation of organisational policies and practices that take into account the goals and concerns of all relevant stakeholders. One author defined the word stakeholder already in 1984 as any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of the organisation’s objectives .

Research shows that the types of stakes can range from an interest, to a legal or moral right, to ownership. The Body Shop classifies them into social and non-social groups i.e. that stakeholders are:

  • those whose interests are affected by the issue or those whose activities strongly affect the issue;
  • those who possess information, resources and expertise needed for strategy formulation and implementation, and
  • those who control relevant implementation, instruments (Funds, Law or Property)

The term stakeholder is therefore more embracing and inclusive than a simple word called customer.

Perhaps the Local Government Association should rather review their own strategic communication action plans and ask themselves whether they have adequately communicated the correct definitions of words used in the business world and contextually today.

See also my page for more on definitions.