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Glossary of NHS ManagementSpeak
posted: Thursday November 13, 2008

ManagementSpeak, management speak, (n), deliberately obtuse use of Standard English, used mainly to create a false impression of professionalism, competence and expertise, especially amongst ones peers and the easily duped.

Nothing underlines the incompetence of NHS management quite as devastatingly as their reliance on 'management-speak' to boost their own egos and engender a feeling of being in control of an organisation that is clearly in total chaos. Of course, management-speak is not unique to the NHS, but NHS managers do seem to rely on it to a rather greater extent than most.

Please email the editor if you have favourites of your own that do not appear below

Address (an issue) Pretend to look for a solution.
Action plan Back-covering exercise, often in the form of a long and deliberately vague document.
Agenda for Change Hugely expensive exercise to provide complex job descriptions for hundreds of thousands of NHS staff in order to ensure that senior management continue to be paid huge salaries for inadequate performance.
Annually retentive Retaining staff on a recurring 12-month contract.
Aspiration Non-deliverable pledge.
Ball-park figure The number of staff watching the European Cup Final in the training room.
Best practice Procedure suggested by an inexperienced committee.
Blended solution Wonderfully clever and innovative way of getting something done by applying the appropriate technique(s). Essentially this is what the rest of the world calls 'common sense'.
Bottom line Crease in seat of a manager's skirt or trousers caused by spending too long sitting in meetings.
Business partner

Good example of an oxymoron - NHS Business Partners are not partners, nor do they work in a business. They are functionaries appointed to act as a buffer between a manager and their responsibilities. Dealing with a Business Partner is pointless because they have no authority, just a remit to keep you at arms-length from anyone who does.

Clinical governance I have yet to meet anyone outside NHS management who can adequately explain this phrase to a layman. I therefore have no idea what it means.
Closure Way of evading any responsibility by drawing a line under an issue.
Consensus Brutally imposed management line.
Core competencies Skills required to perform essential job-related tasks such as opening a door or switching on a light. A lot of money is spent in the NHS on ensuring that long-serving and highly qualified staff such as neurosurgeons, computer-programmers and senior secretaries are tested and kept up-to-date on such skills.
Customer A patient with no choice other than that offered by the NHS.
Dialogue Mostly one-way conversation.
Due diligence Very little diligence.
Empowering Tricking an innocent and hard-working subordinate into taking responsibility for your mistakes.
Engage with Pretend to give a damn.
Equality Policy of levelling-down by discouraging excellence.
Flagship (whatever) Best of a bad bunch of whatevers.
Framework Largely incoherent structure.
Guidance Excessive management interference.
Human Resources (HR) Inhuman department traditionally staffed by humourless drones, mainly female, tasked with ensuring that productive staff don't get to be a threat to incompetent senior management.
I hear what you say ...but I ain't listening chum.
Investing in people The NHS? Don't make me laugh! The NHS seems to undervalue the experience, knowledge and skills of its staff almost as it if were a matter of policy.
Issue Intractable problem.
Joined-up thinking Intellectual activity at the level attained by a child that has just learned to write in cursive script.
Key Performance Indicator Arbitrarily chosen, or deliberately mis-calculated statistic.
Let's be absolutely clear I have absolutely no proof - but don't even think about contradicting me.
Level playing field Environment discouraging excellence.
Little scratch Formerly referred to as 'just a little prick'. The politically correct brigade's way of ensuring that those administering and receiving injections have no chance of lightening the proceedings by enjoying a little light-hearted and well-natured social intercourse. Bastards.
Manage expectations
In the NHS? Why bother? They already know it won't work.
Methodology (as in 'there is a strict methodology for dealing with this') Do it my way - but don't think I will take the blame if it all goes tits-up.
Mission statement Formerly a laudable and concise one-liner encapsulating an NHS Trust's goals. eg "We will use the available resources to deliver healthcare in our area to the best possible standard". Of course, wasting money can be easily identified as not complying with such a statement, so now the one-liner has been replaced by a long document meaning f#ck-all.
Moving on Hiding, overlooking, ignoring or refusing to accept mistakes.
Mr/Mrs/Ms/Miss etc Title also indentifying gender, vital information in an electronic healthcare record, sometimes omitted when it offends a manager's pigheaded intention to support sex-equality regardless of the medical consequences.
My door is always open if you want to talk it over F@ck off - you are of no consequence whatsoever so I will take all the credit for your good idea.
No-blame culture Culture in which no-one is responsible for anything that goes wrong - main reason why the NHS is in deep doo-doo.
Off-message Almost certainly true.
Out of the loop Where proactive staff end up.
Partnership Relationship in which management hold all the aces.
Proactive Describes a member of staff who puts paper in the photocopier without being told to. Proactive staff are generally considered to be a threat to management.
Quacktioner Unfulfilled administrator with a non-clinical qualification who would love to strut around in a bow-tie and a white coat.
Stakeholder Anyone with an interest in a public service (excepting those who are forced to use it).
Strategic Short-term.
Streamlined More inconvenient.
Truth Something that can't be disproved.
Thinking outside the box Coming up with the sort of innovative idea that must be discouraged at all costs.
Under serious consideration We are waiting for the furore to die down before we stop pretending to do something.
Unfit for purpose Blame the previous guy.
Vision Substitute for policies.
Wide-ranging Unfocused.

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