September 10, 2016

Source: Bigstock

The attendees would learn about something called “€œlean management,”€ one feebly-attempted definition of which is as follows:

If someone tells you that “€œlean management is this”€ and not something else, if someone puts it in a box and ties a bow around it and presents it in a neat package with four walls around it, then that someone knows not of what they speak. Why? Because it is in motion and not a framed picture hanging on the wall. It is a melody, a rhythm, and not a single note.

This is the mysticism of apparatchiks, the romanticism of bureaucrats, the poetry of clerks. From my limited observations of management in public hospitals and other parts of the public health care system, it seeks to be not lean, in the commonly used sense of the word, but fat, indeed as fat as possible; nor are large private institutions very much different.

It seems, then, that we have entered, gradually and without any central direction or decree, a golden age of langue de bois or even of Newspeak. Langue de bois is the pompous, vague, and abstract words that have some kind of connotation but no real denotation used by those who have to hide their real motives and activities by a smokescreen of scientific- or benevolent-sounding verbiage. Newspeak is the language in Nineteen Eighty-Four whose object is to limit human minds to a few simple politically permissible thoughts, excluding all others, and making doublethink”€”the frictionless assent to incompatible propositions”€”part of everyday mentation.

Langue de bois and Newspeak are no longer languages into which normal thought must be translated; rather they have become the languages in which thought itself, or rather cerebral activity, takes place, at least in the upper echelons of the bureaucracy that rules us. If you ask someone who speaks either of them to translate what he has said or written into normal language, it is more than likely he will be unable to do so: His translation will be indistinguishable from the words translated. It is therefore clear that, where culture is concerned, the Soviet Union scored a decisive and probably irreversible victory in the Cold War.


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