The mainstream business press was recently shocked--shocked!--to learn that McKinsey Consulting provided some l to U.S. Immigrations and Customers Enforcement (ICE). The gist of McKinsey's input: ICE should spend less money on food and lodging for its prisoners.
As government agencies go, ICE isn't the brightest bulb in the pack. Nevertheless,t I'm reasonably certain that somebody inside ICE--maybe a World War II buff--said something like: "hey, if we're short on money, why don't we just starve our prisoners and cram them into smaller spaces?"
I mean, it's not exactly an original idea, since throughout history, absolutely every jailor who's been paid to keep prisoners has figured out that skimping on food and lodging lets you pocket the difference. Painfully obvious advice, but guess what ICE paid for it?
$20 million dollars. (!!?)
And that's just the tip of the ICEberg, because ICE also hired Deloitte Consulting, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Booz Allen Hamilton to provide what undoubtedly was similarly brilliant advice. Putting aside the cruelty and immorality of it all... your tax dollars at work, eh?
Now, you're probably wondering: how do management consulting firms get amounts of money for providing utterly obvious advice?
Wonder no more because here's the secret: management consultants use copious amounts of corporate-speak to make the banal sound profound.
To illustrate this, here are seven paragraphs that Deloitte Consulting sent me last week as part of a story pitch. (Note: I asked if I could include the quotes verbatim; they said OK as long as I linked to the original document: "2020 Global Marketing Trends Report".)
The numbered headers below are some simple business advice in plain English written by yours truly, followed by Deloitte's ludicrously baroque elaborations:
1. My Advice: "Treat people decently."
Deloitte's version: "1. Elevating the human experience - While digital technologies make it easier to navigate through busy lives, they can erode the fundamental elements of human connection. When digital connections --personal and professional -- lack a human touch, people can feel isolated, underrepresented and unfulfilled. This can result in quick answers to narrowly defined problems versus more sustainable solutions. The rapid pace of digital change is adding to a buildup of these unintended consequences, which Deloitte calls 'experience debt.' This debt has far-reaching implications for humans who navigate these digital solutions. To pay down this experience debt, organizations and their ecosystems should focus on elevating the human experience. For businesses, this means striving to address unmet human needs for connection by aligning customers, the workforce, and partners to a common purpose."
2. My Advice: "Have corporate goals."
Deloitte's version: "2. Purpose is everything - A clear purpose can be critical for organizations -- it articulates why an organization exists, what problems it is trying to solve, and who it wants to be to each human it impacts. Businesses are using purpose to create deeper connections with consumers, doing more for the communities in which they work, attract and retain talent, and achieve greater results and impact in the process. Companies that lead with purpose and build around it can achieve continued loyalty, consistency and relevance in the lives of consumers. What's more, according to recent data from the June 2019 Harvard Business Review article, '181 Tops CEOs Have Realized Companies Need a Purpose Beyond Profit,' companies with high levels of purpose outperform the market by 5-7% per year, on par with companies with best-in-class governance and innovative capabilities. By leading with purpose, many companies are outpacing their competitors and leaving an impact on everyone they touch."
3. My Advice: "Listen to your customers."
Deloitte's version: "3. The amplification of consumer participation - According to Deloitte's "Driving band loyalty with emotion" study, nearly 75% of consumers say they expect two-way relationships with organizations they do business with. Increased customer interaction can build competitive advantage and develop a stronger relationship with the brand. Technology provides new opportunities for consumers, citizens, and communities to engage directly in shaping, influencing, building and co-creating the overall brand. Identifying how, and in which areas, to integrate customer participation into the consumer journey and the product lifecycle can be overwhelming. However, by using the models and approaches best suited to an organization's brand and marketing strategy, businesses can successfully achieve and benefit from customer participation."
4. My Advice: "Stop secretly swiping customer data."
Deloitte's version: "4. Are you a trust buster or builder? - Trust is a primary determinant in how people assess brands. In fact, according to one survey by Sprout Social, nearly 9 out of 10 Americans (86%) believe that business transparency is more important today than ever before, and 7 out of 10 (73%) will pay for products that promise total transparency. Customers, regulators, and the media expect brands to be open, honest, and consistent across all aspects of their business -- from products and promotions to workforce culture and partner relationships. In an era of connected technology and big data analytics, companies should create a structure that systematically builds trust by protecting what stakeholders value most, customer data and privacy. At the same time, they should proactively detect threats in the domains of cybersecurity, data protection, regulatory compliance and reputation. By supporting the trust agenda with respect to customer data and ethical use of artificial intelligence, brands can create a more coherent, relevant and less invasive customer experience."
5. My Advice: "Sell stuff people want to buy."
Deloitte's version: "5. Fusion is the new business blend - Traditional boundaries are disappearing, signaling a fusion of once disparate industries. Consequently, brands are moving from being isolated entities to being members of far-reaching ecosystems. Many leading companies are seeking new ways to establish themselves in these much broader ecosystems -- or risk being disrupted by new competition. Businesses that solve unmet needs through fusion with smart, open ecosystems can systematically displace competitors that are unwilling (or unaware) to do the same. Organizations can expand to new business areas by looking beyond industry boundaries to address customer needs, identify opportunities for growth and partnerships, and create new value for customers."
6. My Advice: "Adapt to circumstances."
Deloitee's version: "6. Diffusing agility across the organization - Many leading brands are differentiating themselves by embracing agile ways of working and predictive technologies to gain a share of culture and conversation rather than just share of voice or brand impression. Other brands should follow suit, moving from reactive to proactive engagement to address the wants and needs of customers. For this, companies can restructure their marketing functions, leverage the power of real-time data accessed through digital platforms, and quickly gain insights to design more personalized, human experiences in an agile manner. Agility is both a framework and mindset, which often requires an organizational shift and built-in internal capabilities and cross-functional teams that accelerate their reaction time to capitalize on societal moments."
7. My Advice: "Don't treat employees like crap."
Deloitte's version: "7. Valuing your most important asset -- talent - An organization's people -- arguably its most important asset, now consists of a diverse swath of individuals, including brand ambassadors, giggers, social influencers and partners. These individuals reside both inside and outside the walls of the organization. This diverse workforce can require an approach that values an individual's experience and nurtures the "entire person," enabling them to evolve and develop new skills and relationships, while building loyalty toward brands and places of employment. What's more, organizations with the best workforce experiences also enjoy 12% greater customer satisfaction than other organizations, and their three-year revenue growth rate is 2.3 times greater, according to "Powering your bottom line through employee engagement" by UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School."
There you have it: twenty-eight (28) words of utterly banal business advice expanded into 913 words of egregious biz-blab. That's roughly four typewritten pages to express ideas that could fit on half a postcard.
And what might Deloitte (or McKinsey, or any other management) charge for rewriting that two cents of pablum? $1 million? $10 million? Who knows? The sky's the limit!
Why, why, why do companies and government bureaus pay huge sums of money for this kind of whalloping gobbledegook? Honestly, I don't know. But I do know this: writing fluent biz-blab isn't difficult, nor is training yourself to keep a straight face whilst spouting it.
Add a $1,000 suit and you're in business, my friend! You, too, can make big bucks as a management consultant. With that in mind, I'll leave you with this observation: the most important part of "management consulting" is contained in the term's first 13 letters.