There is a very interesting piece in this month’s Monthly, by Don Watson. It is entitled ‘A Pack of Bankers’ and in part relates many of the depredations against average punters by the banks and AMP which have been uncovered by the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry. It does also relate some of the activities the banks undertook to get themselves out of the problems caused by the “near-fatal indulgences that followed the first decade of deregulation” during the early 1990s1. This entailed their adoption of ‘vision statements’, ‘mission statements’, adherence to the ‘triple bottom line’ and numerous other meaningless buzzwords.
These buzzwords reminded me of a story told to me by an acquaintance. His organisation was suggested for abolition by a minister of the then Labor federal government. There was such an outcry that the government backed off, but to save face, the organisation was put through a review run by consulting company Coopers & Lybrand. It was apparently the full catastrophe, with role-playing, marker pens, butcher’s paper and discussion groups. This was to give the employees the impression that they had some input into the process. One of the ‘tasks’ the staff were supposed to undertake was to come up with a mission statement. According to my acquaintance, nobody was particularly interested, so the facilitator got the ball rolling and came up with, in part: ‘The sustainable development of Australia’s non-renewable resources’. This oxymoronic statement caused significant mirth, and unfortunately, the reason for this mirth was pointed out to the facilitator and the idiocy removed.
As Watson intimates in his article, the usage of these buzzwords was only for show1. That was certainly the case in the example given above, and it is symptomatic of the managerial drivel which has been used to give the impression of responding to scrutiny. Of course, it does nothing of the sort.