Nimble (adj.)

Submitted by Helesia Luke, Ethos Strategy Group

Helesia Writes:
A NIMBLE organization advises its employees not to bring more personal stuff to work than can be carried home on the bus (later that day).

Tony Responds:
Surely there must be dictionaries out there somewhere dedicated solely to New Age Management lingo — the body of mystical-sounding buzz-words that supposedly describe transcendent ways of running organizations.

Expressions like “alignment,” “visioning,” “comprehensive,” “learning organization,” “creative destruction,” “thinking outside the box,” and the ever-magical “empowerment” make me imagine that somehow, when I wasn’t looking, all the elite business schools must have moved to Sedona and started handing out free peyote with every diploma.

“Nimble” is one of the newer entries in the cult of Mystical Management. Its suggestion of physical flexibility puts one in mind of some of the more painful-looking yoga positions. That may be just the thing for a Sedona retreat center, but somehow I would imagine that, in a boardroom, funders and investors would be unnerved by the idea of an organization gleefully tying itself in knots to achieve some kind of higher consciousness.

Of course, management types normally use “nimble” as a way to describe organizations that can try new things and change course quickly. They don’t mean to conjure scenes of Mongolian Contortionism. Still, they’ve picked a word for this (rather ordinary) quality that is sure to suggest highly extraordinary images, at least on a subliminal level. Whenever I hear someone say “we have adopted a nimble management structure,” I picture all the vice-presidents sitting in a circle with their heels behind their ears.

Is that really the reaction they wanted?

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