Meaningless Management Phrases

The overheard conversation between a harried developer and her manager (“You’ll just have to multitask!”) reminded me of other management exhortations I have heard.

Failure is not an option! This is usually repeated with great vigor and conviction by managers who have sent their developers off on a project that has virtually no chance of meeting schedule and scope goals. (Projects like this seem not to have quality goals.). Perhaps they believe that repeating this phrase will hold failure at bay. Failure is always a possibility, and perhaps a probability. I suppose this phrase comes out of the school that believes Positive Mental Attitude will overcome all obstacles. Attitude counts for a lot, but it’s not a substitute for good sense.

It’s just a ___________(fill in the blank). The word “just” is a clue that the speaker is dismissing some essential complexity. Variations are:

It’s just a database.

It’s just a small change.

It’s just a different programming language.

It’s just negativity.

Don’t bring me a problem, bring me a solution! I think managers say this believing that it will inspire staff to develop problem-solving skills and initiative. The real effect of this phrase is that the manager doesn’t hear about problems early or at all. And team members will struggle to solve a problem long after they have exhausted productive options, and a bit of outside help is what’s needed. If a manager really wants people to become better problem solvers, there are other (more effective) ways to develop those skills.

I’m sure there are more…