Saturday, May 31, 2008

Fight the Leadership Bull--it


A while back, the folks at Deloitte came up with a way to eliminate bull--it jargon, which at the time I thought was kind of cool, coming from the kind of consulting firm known for inventing office jargon.

They invented a piece of software called "Bullfighter", started using it internally, then offered it up for free on their website. The software works with Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, and not only locates jargon within your document, but give you a score letting you know how bad it is.

The Bullfighter folks now have their own company and website, and have written a book called "Why Business People Speak like Idiots".

They also have a free tool called "Mystery Matador", that let's you copy and paste the text from someone eles's document or email and send the writer an anonymous message from the Mystery Matador that measures the jargon and verbosity, with a link to their score. "It's fast, free, simple, anonymous - and could spare the rest of us from receiving any of their awful prose."

I tired it with a recent post I wrote, "10 Things I Learned working in HR", and here's what it told me:

Bull Diagnosis: Diagnosis: Congratulations - you rely upon standard words to explain concepts. Most concepts will be clear and understood. Keep clean.
Flesch Diagnosis: Diagnosis: Clear. You get to the point. Short sentences describe key thoughts concisely. Readers of all levels can focus on the message rather than finding their way through difficult text. The good Dr. Flesch would be proud of you.

I then tried it on an article from the McKinsey Quarterly, "The Halo Effect, and other Managerial Delusions", and got this report card:

Bull Diagnosis: Diagnosis: Congratulations - you rely upon standard words to explain concepts. Most concepts will be clear and understood. Keep clean.
Flesch Diagnosis: Diagnosis: Teetering on the edge of unclear. The overall meaning remains discernible, but it becomes possible to lose oneself in corollary thoughts, which may be worth exploration, but which can also detract from the core point of the written article.

Hmm, looks like I need to work on my bull--it a little more before I can work for McKinsey.

I'll go back and re-read my own advice on "10 Ways to be a more Strategic Leader" (tip #4: Start using strategic language. If you want to be seen as strategic, you have to learn how to talk strategically. Read the latest books, magazines, or blogs on strategy and learn the jargon of strategy and big picture thinking.)
Go ahead, have some fun with it!

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