The jargon terms council leaders want banned

Update 20 March 2009: Jargon ban draws mixed response

Below is a list of words and phrases that the Local Government Association wants banned. Many of them lattice the IT industry – and business journalism.

The banned list includes gateway review, synergy, stakeholder engagement, baseline, benchmarking, best practice, blue sky thinking, champion, challenge, early win, functionality, transformational and vision.

The Local Government Association says that such terms make it harder for local people to understand what councils do. Some of the most heinous offences against plain English are committed by “Predictors of Beaconicity“, “situational”, “place shaping” and “coterminosity”.

The Department for Communities and Local Government published in 2007 the unpardonable “Predictors of Beaconicity: Which local authorities are most likely to apply to, be short listed and awarded through the Beacon Scheme.” The out of place comma in the title is the department’s.

Words on the LGA’s banned list also include:

•           re-baselining

•           mainstreaming

•           holistic governance

•           contestability

•           synergies

The Association says that everyone who works in public services should use language that makes their work easily understood.

But it’s not just some councils and central government that use jargon to kill general understanding. IBM has developed its own language which seems designed to be impenetrable to most of us.

Somerset County Council formally recorded as one of its business challenges the task of understanding the use of jargon and acronyms by IBM, its partner on a £400m outsourcing – sorry privatised – contract.

The county council’s Audit and Resources Sub-committee said:

“Plain English – Our new partner has a challenge to consider in reducing jargon and explaining acronyms which are in common use within IBM.”

What follows is the banned list which is being sent by the Local Government Association to councils.  The LGA has usually suggested alternatives. I’ve taken out a few words which are not often used in the IT industry and business media.

Across-the-piece – everyone working together

Actioned – do

Advocate – support

Agencies – groups

Ambassador – leader

Area based – in an area

Area focused – concentrating on the area

Autonomous – independent

Baseline – starting point

Beacon – leading light

Benchmarking – measuring

Best Practice – best way

Blue sky thinking – thinking up ideas

Bottom-Up – listening to people

Can do culture  – get the job done

Capabilities –

Capacity – ability

Capacity building – enough room in the system

Cascading –  why use at all?

Challenge – problem

Champion – best

Citizen empowerment – people power

Client – person

Cohesive communities – why use at all?

Cohesiveness – together

Collaboration – working together

Commissioning – buy

Community engagement – getting people involved

Consensual  – everyone agrees

Contestability – Why use at all?

Core developments – main things that are happening

Core Message – main point

Core principles – beliefs

Core Value – belief

Coterminosity – all singing from the same hymn sheet

Coterminous – all singing from the same hymn sheet

Cross-cutting – everyone working together

Cross-fertilisation – spreading ideas

Customer – people/person

Dialogue – talk/discuss

Direction of travel – way forward

Distorts spending priorities – ignores people’s needs

Downstream – Why use at all?

Early Win – success

Edge-fit – Why use at all?

Embedded – set in

Empowerment – people power

Enabler – helps

Engagement – working with people

Engaging users – getting people involved

Enhance – improve

Evidence Base – research shows

Exemplar – example

Facilitate – help

Fast-Track – speed up

Flex – Why use at all?

Flexibilities and Freedoms  – more power to do the right thing

Framework – guide

Fulcrum – pivot

Functionality – use

Funding Streams – money

Gateway review – Why use at all?

Going forward – in the future

Good Practice – best way

Governance – Why use at all?

Guidelines – guide

Holistic – taken in the round

Holistic governance – Why use at all?

Horizon scanning – Why use at all?

Improvement levers – using the tools to get the job done

Incentivising – incentive

Income Streams – money/cash

Indicators – measurements

Initiative – idea

Innovative capacity – Why use at all?

Interdepartmental – working together

Interface – talking to each other

Iteration – version

Joined up – working together

Joint working – working together

Level playing field – everyone equal

Lever – Why use at all?

Leverage – influence

Localities – places/town/city/village

Lowlights – worst bits

Mainstreaming – Why use at all?

Management capacity – Why use at all?

Meaningful consultation- talking to people

Meaningful dialogue – talking to people

Mechanisms – methods

Menu of Options – choices

Multi-agency – many groups

Multidisciplinary – many

Network model – Why use at all?

Normalising – make normal

Outcomes – results

Outcomes – focused

Output – results

Outsourced – privatised

Overarching – Why use at all?

Paradigm – Why use at all?

Parameter – limits

Participatory – joining in

Partnership working – working together

Partnerships – working together

Pathfinder – Why use at all?

Peer challenge – Why use at all?

Performance Network – Why use at all?

Place shaping – creating places where people can thrive

Pooled budgets – money

Pooled resources – time and money

Pooled risk – Why use at all?

Populace – people

Potentialities – chances

Practitioners – experts

Predictors of Beaconicity – Why use at all?

Preventative services – protecting the most vulnerable

Prioritization – most important

Priority – most important

Proactive – Why use at all?

Process driven – shouldn’t everything be people driven?

Procure – buy

Procurement – buying

Promulgate – spread

Proportionality –  in proportion

Protocol – guidance

Quantum – Why use at all?

Quick Hit – success

Quick Win – success

Rationalisation – cut

Rebaselining – Why use at all?

Reconfigured – reform

Resource allocation – money going to the right place

Revenue Streams  – money

Risk based – safest way

Robust – tough

Scaled-back – cut/reduce

Scoping – work out

Sector wise – Why use at all?

Seedbed – idea

Self-aggrandizement – Why use at all?

Service users – people

Shared priority ¬- all working together

Shell developments – Why use at all?

Signpost – point in the direction of

Single conversations – talking to

Single Point of Contact – everything under one roof

Situational – situation

Slippage – delay

Social contracts – deal

Social exclusion – poverty

Stakeholder – other organisations

Step Change – improve

Strategic –  planned

Strategic priorities – planned

Streamlined – efficient

Sub-regional – work between councils

Subsidiarity – Why use at all?

Sustainable – long term

Sustainable communities – environmentally friendly

Symposium – meeting

Synergies – what use at all?

Tested for Soundness  – what works

Thematic – theme

Thinking outside of the box – Why use at all?

Third sector – charities and voluntary organisations

Toolkit – guidance

Top-Down – ignores people

Trajectory – route

Tranche – slice

Transactional – Why use at all?

Transformational – change

Transparency – clear

Upstream – Why use at all?

Upward trend – getting better

Utilise – use

Value-added – extra

Vision  – ideal/dream/belief

Visionary – ideal/dream/belief


Council leaders ban business jargon – Computer Weekly

Predictors of Beaconicity – Government publication

IBM’s partner in £400m deal calls for less jargon – IT Projects blog

IBM Jargon and General Computing – IBM publication dated 1990

The LGA wants to ban jargon – about time