4 keys to overcoming management jargon and defining shared aspirations

4 keys to overcoming management jargon and defining shared aspirations

Management jargon is the enemy of strategic clarity, according to Peter Fuda, who says there are four key questions that need to be answered in order to determine your deepest aspirations

The key issue we face in defining shared aspirations is not a lack of ambition, or even strategic clarity, it’s drowning in a sea of management jargon. This includes terminology like purpose, mission, vision, values, strategy, strategic initiatives, objectives, targets, and value proposition, to name just a few.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this terminology, as long as we all have exactly the same interpretation of what each term means.

Many of these terms are used interchangeably when, in fact, they are targeting quite different ideas. To define shared aspirations, we require a clear, consistent and accessible language. Otherwise, it’s like being at the United Nations with no translator.

Every great organisation can answer four simple questions
I have learned that the simplest and most effective way to overcome management jargon and build aspirations is to focus primarily on the key questions we are trying to answer. It turns out that there are four simple questions any great team or organisation can answer.

Management jargon and shared aspirations

The first question we must answer is ‘why?’ Why do we exist above and beyond making money? Supporting questions include: what is the unique contribution we are here to make? Who would miss us if we were gone? The management terminology usually associated with this question is purpose or mission.

The second question we must answer is ‘where to?’ Where are we headed? Supporting questions include: what does success look like? How will we know when we get there? The management terminology usually associated with this question is vision.

The third question we must answer is ‘what?’ What will we do and what will we not do? Supporting questions include: What are the strategic shifts we need to make? How will we win in our marketplace? The management terminology usually associated with this question is strategy and its extensions, such as strategic shifts, strategic intentions and strategic initiatives.

The fourth question we must answer is ‘how?’ How will we be on our journey? Is it ok to pursue our aims by any means necessary, Enron-style, or will we establish some expectations for behavior? The management jargon and terminology usually associated with this question includes values, standards and behaviors.

“The simplest and most effective way to build aspirations is to focus on the key questions we are trying to answer”

Typically, we label the answers to these four questions ‘our aspirations’. By focusing our energy on the questions we are trying to answer, rather than the jargon, we dramatically increase our ability to produce high-quality aspirations. We also greatly increase the likelihood of them being understood and embraced by others, when we begin communicating them.

3 steps to avoiding management jargon and defining shared aspirations

  • The key issue we face in defining shared aspirations is not a lack of ambition, or even strategic clarity, it’s drowning in a sea of management jargon.
  • The simplest and most effective way to build aspirations is to focus on the key questions we are trying to answer.
  • The four simple questions any great team or organisation can answer are ‘why?’, ‘where?’, ‘what?’ & ‘how?’.

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