Action Item, Professional Superhero

From Martin Kaminer to ADS-L on the 28th, a link to this wonderful 2000 comic strip by Neil McAllister (apparently the only extant episode of Adventures of Action Item):


Mostly about jargon, but it also raises questions about discourse organization, in this case about how business meetings are organized.

From Kaminer:

Maybe there’s something inherently funny about lampooning business jargon (a la ‘The Office’) that makes this more evergreen, I don’t know. Happily I’m no longer required to go to many meetings where people actually talk like this, so it’s possible my frame of reference is off. But still there’s something either reassuring or unnerving about the fact that we’ll soon mark 20 years of this particular kind of business babble, I imagine in no small part aided and abetted by the success of LinkedIn.

2 Responses to “Action Item, Professional Superhero”

  1. John Baker Says:

    There are two things going on here. The first is that when new high-level people come in to address a business problem, they generally insist on understanding it before taking action, and they typically have their own, perhaps limited, agendas. This frustrates the existing team. Often the additional time for understanding is well-spent, although sometimes it results in catastrophic delay (as presumably would be the case here).

    The second is the continued hatred of business jargon. It’s easy to understand why legal jargon and criminal jargon come in for so much hate, but it’s not clear why business jargon is equally despised. Perhaps it’s that many people just pass through the business community and are not fully socialized, yet must endure words and phrases that they find alien. Terms such as “point of contact,” “high level,” “deliverables,” “milestone,” and “offline” have obvious use, in spite of the criticism addressed to them.

    Of course, our professional superhero does have some communication issues (in addition to the larger issue that he does not seem to understand the matter’s urgency or his role). “Own this challenge” doesn’t really mean anything, and while “goal-oriented” and “results driven” are potentially meaningful, they are not as Action Item uses them. “Each Tuesday and Thursday, on a go forward basis” is a convoluted way of saying “subsequent Tuesdays and Thursdays.” But I think much of the criticism just reflects the fact that the critics fear or actively dislike sitting in business meetings.

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    Nice comments. Certainly I’ve never understood the wild rage that business jargon seems to excite in some people.

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