News

Get me rewrite

When your manager starts using this term “action plan,” run for your life.
I Googled “action plan” in all ca.gov Web sites. I got 577,000 hits. Holy
smoke, that’s a lot of action. We’re smokin’!

I found action plans for unhealthful air, energy, environmental justice,
public access, goods movement, and guard-the-family, among others, and many
reports were identified as corrective, updated, draft, final, and on and on
and on. I’m getting a chill. The fog of obfuscation is rollin’ in.

Someone tell me, please, the difference between an action plan and plain old
regular plan? Call me a skeptic, but I’m guessing that when you have to put
“action” in front of your plan, there will be very little of the former.

Of course, we all know where this action plan gobbledygook comes from. It
gurgles into the bureaucracy from “strategic planning” hype. The
jargon-filled prose of strategic planning corrupts plain, straightforward
language. It hides the incompetent and inept from public view. It
obfuscates, confuses and fogs the real issues before state government.

Hyperbole? I don’t think so. Look at these examples of mission statements,
the bedrock of a strategic plan.

“The mission of the Basic Training Bureau is to facilitate the development,
maintenance and improvement of the basic training system, and to advance
professional values, principles and ethics. Our mission will be accomplished
in an atmosphere of cooperation and trust”. (From the Basic Training Bureau
of the Peace Officer Standards and Training)

It took 40 words to find out what the managers of the Basic Training Bureau
think they do. Without strategic planning they might have said: The bureau
helps develop, maintain and improve basic training for police. I especially
like the last sentence. Duh! Instead of instilling me with confidence, it
tells me that the bureau must have run into some flak about not being
cooperative and trusting, so the bosses said, “Hey, put this bull into
mission statement and that’ll fix our cooperation and trust problem.” Why
else would they include it?

The next one’s a gem. This is only the first sentence, all 55 words of it.
“The mission of the Insurance Law Committee of the Business Law Section of
the State Bar of California (I found this on the committee’s Web page. Is it
necessary to repeat?) is to provide a forum for interested (What about the
uninterested?) California (Gosh. Only California?) insurance law
practitioners (You mean insurance lawyers?) to act for the benefit of all
similarly practicing lawyers (Oh, I see, the others who aren’t interested?)
throughout the state in connection with legislation, education and interface
with other substantive committees and sections committees and sections (What
about all those non-substantive committees and sections–whatever those
are).”

What a crock. You can identify the people who wrote this. They have calluses
on their hands for patting themselves on the back. This is pure obfuscation.
It’s fog. It’s written only for the people who wrote it. They had it printed
on heavy paper, put some color in it, put a spiral binder on it and, voila!,
they had themselves a plan.

When Gen. Dwight Eisenhower was planning for the invasion of Normandy he
said, “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” The state has it
backward. Plans are everything; planning is a necessary distraction.

By the way, I’ve got five bucks that says there was no “action plan” in
Operation Overlord, Ike’s invasion plan. How’d we ever win?


Support for Capitol Weekly is Provided by: