Reflection – does it achieve anything?


I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of management-speak and jargon over the last week.  I’m far from innocent, but I only use reach out when being ironic, I don’t ask someone to talk to a subject (I prefer them to talk about it or talk to people) and I try not to use customer journey unless the customer really is travelling somewhere.

But I’ve heard, recently, of the need to reduce friction (which, translated, seems to mean make things easier) and the need for a route planner (a replacement for the once-ubiquitous roadmap – aka plan or strategy).

In addition to hearing about these problems of friction all too frequently last week, there was also reference to a barometer to measure anything other than pressure influencing weather patterns, real (from real experience to really exciting) and insightful views.  Not surprisingly, global was pleaded as a clinching argument on more than one occasion.

I’m not the first person to write about management gobbledygook or how difficult it can be to work out what people mean, but I want to pick out a couple of points.

First, using the jargon I’ve mentioned has become a way of showing you belong.  If you use the terms everyone else uses, you can sit at the table with them.  Add anything involving IT in some form and it seems essential to drift into management-speak.

Secondly, some of the terms have become so common that they’ve moved into general use.  I often hear someone say I reached out to them when they mean they phoned that other person.  Networking might be going the same way – for instance, a lunch last week was described as a networking lunch because it provided an opportunity to speak to people.

And there are other phrases that are slipping from into the management-speak ghetto.

My prime candidate for this is reflect.  When completing professional development courses, you’re asked to reflect on your learning.  Performance assessments (previously referred to as appraisals) encourage you to reflect on your performance over the last year.  Reflection is encouraged in the classroom and the lecture hall.

My quibble is what seems to be meant by reflection in this context:  it seems to be little more than gazing off into the distance.  Where I’ve encountered it, you’re not supposed to draw conclusions.  You’re not supposed to make decisions.  It’s unclear whether you’re supposed to ask questions.  It’s particularly unclear what questions you’re supposed to ask or whether you’re allowed to think of those yourself.

I haven’t a clue what reflection, in this context, is supposed to achieve, where it’s appeared from or why the injunction to reflect has become so common.  Or, for that matter, what I’m supposed to do when directed to reflect.

If anyone can shed any light on this, please, please let me know.

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