Delivery mania

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What is it with delivery? Why do people think this word solves everything?

A few years ago the word was solution – a word that might more reasonably be thought to solve things. Now everything has to be delivered – even things that can’t be.

You can deliver a report, by all means, but how can you deliver goals, visions and the like? Can an organisation deliver, for instance, sustainable communities? Where do you deliver them, and what happens to them in the course of delivery?

Elsewhere I find people “well placed to deliver against our strategic plan” or “deliver on” some ambition or other. Does this mean to achieve or fulfil the plan, or merely to make progress towards it? It is all so infuriatingly imprecise.

Possibly the most fatuous usage I have come across recently was an executive thanking his staff “for delivering so far this year”. He didn’t say what they were delivering or whether they were doing it on time, but the “so far” suggested he was afraid they might stop.

I would like to stop people “delivering cost savings” when they could simply cut costs. If I could achieve this, would I be delivering a word saving?

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2 Responses to Delivery mania

  1. Clare Lynch March 22, 2011 at 9:49 am #

    And, no, it’s not OK to replace “deliver” with “drive” (“driving sustainability”, “driving efficiency” etc).

    I am beginning to suspect a lot of corporate language comes from a longing among white-collar workers for the more down-to-earth, manly existence of their blue-collar brethren. For example:

    Deliver (postmen, midwives)
    Drive (White Van Man)
    Toolkit (speaks for itself)
    Benchmarking (a cobblers’ term, apparently)

    What do you think?

    • Rupert March 22, 2011 at 10:39 am #

      I like the white-collar envy idea, Clare, but I think it’s a more general fondness for down-to-earth metaphors – hence road maps, track records, level playing-fields etc. The intention is to make something more real, and when the metaphor was first coined, it probably worked very well. The trouble, as we all know, is that when it is repeated, it merely reveals the writer’s lack of originality. It reminds us why Orwell was so right when he insisted that you should never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech that you are used to seeing in print.

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