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Where Did “Management Jargon” Come From?

Where Did "Management Jargon" Come From?

Where Did “Management Jargon” Come From?

Management jargon began to explode about the same time as the beginning of the Business School”. It is based largely on seven key words:

1. Solve 2. Projects 3. Problems 4. Management 5. Results 6. Objectives 7. Plan

The words solve and projects are the oldest dating back to the 15th Century. Manager (1588) and management (1598) have been with us for some time. Manage has been defined as “the use or contrivance for effecting some purpose; the conduct of affairs; administration; direction; control; to handle work; to carry on successfully or otherwise; to control the course of affairs by one’s own action. It would follow that “the Manager” is defined as, “one skilled in managing a business or institution”.

Problems have been around longer. Problem (1529) has been defined as “a thing thrown or put forward; a difficult question proposed for solution; a matter of inquiry; a proposition in which something is required to be done. An inquiry which starting from some given conditions investigates some fact, result or law; and in chess it means an arrangement of pieces upon the chessboard, in which the player is challenged to discover the method of accomplishing a specified result”.

Before problems there were projects (1477) defined as “a plan, a draft, a scheme, a mental conception or idea, a tabulated statement; a design or patter; something projected for execution; a proposal; something to be done, or some action to be carried out”. And before projects: solve (1440). Solve means “to clear up, explain, resolve, and answer; to find the answer or solution to a problem”.

Later came the word result (1651) meaning to effect, issue, or outcome of some action, process, and design. And shortly on objective (1678) as pertaining to the object or end as the cause of action = final cause. We later find the word managing (1715) capturing some of the elements noted above, being defined as “addicted to scheming or to assuming the direction of affairs; having executive control”.

Then plan (1780), meaning a table or programme indicating the relations of some set of objects, or the times, places, of some intended proceedings.

Some 170 years later on, Henri Fayol knitted together elements these words, suggesting that the managers’ role was to plan; to organise; to coordinate; to control; and to lead.

His most astonishing proposition was that as one rose in the organisational hierarchy the planning content of the job increased, with the senior executive being primarily involved with planning. This was later translated and published as “Peter’s Principles”.

Despite the widespread misunderstanding, or in many cases, the lack of understanding of Fayol’s concept, the games played by management pundits of combining and recombining these words into various forms of management systems and approaches, has been staggering.

It is my hope to re- introduce a planning method which will slow the proliferation of Jargon and to bring about a more straight-forward approach to the centuries old requirement to adapt, to change, or die.

The requirement to manage change has always been with us.

It is the shortening of the “Change Lead Time” which has caused today’s management grief.

Those who cannot or will not quickly respond to, and to cope with environmental changes, competitive shifts, technological developments, social attitudes, now find themselves in difficulty.

The Consultancy industry response, is to build a market around the words “Managing Change” and “Employee Engagement”, train a load of consultants, and proliferate the jargon and fear of failure to stir up some fee paying Clients.

With a small amount of mental agility however, it can be seen that “Managing Change” is Project Management, is; managing by Objectives, by exception, by results, by Planning and Budgeting, with the oldest of these expressions being project management.

Project management is seen as the single cell structure which builds into any form of forward looking management system, be it corporate planning, long range or strategic planning, business planning, management by objectives or simple budgeting.

So, let’s get back to the basics of Managing by projects, planning by numbers and being strategically focused, and dispense with the mumbo jumbo.

Business is after all, simply the art of identifying the market and Customer, and joining it up with the solution you offer. The rest is simply an act of planning.

How is your plan today?

Authored by

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