50 memos a day without thinking

You may already have heard of, and even used, the famous Dilbert mission statement tool, or MBA Writer, an amazing java application that generates magical business phrases at the click of a mouse (thanks to Luke Froeb of Management R&D for pointing me to this one). What power and grace. MBA Writer’s author, a Vanderbilt economics professor, claims you could use it to write 50 memos a day for more than 100 years without having to think.

You can guess what it does but it’s much more fun to just go there and see.

I wish he hadn’t named it as he did, because I always have to think twice about knocking MBAs in this space after a combination of posts, including my magic of metrics post of a couple weeks ago that highlighted how much I like my subscriptions to go up, and the MBA buzzwords post tracking back to a Guy Kawasaki post early last week. Both seemed to generate a drop in subscriptions. Guy pointed it out on his blog, I saw it too on mine. I won’t give you numbers though, because mine are so much lower than the biggies.

Lawyers like the lawyer jokes, don’t they? Or have I just been hanging around the right lawyers, or maybe too much Nolo Press?  And I know consultants like consultant jokes because I’ve been there for sure. So what’s with the MBAs lacking humor?  Not good.

However, the MBA Writer is too good to pass up. It was also the second anti-business-speak post by Luke Froeb in two days. In the first he quotes a poor downtrodden student with a terribly twisted gobbledygook sentence, and adds: “I don’t know what it is about MBA students that makes them write in a style that no one wants to read.” On that post he says he had his students read “Fred Kahn’s classic My War Against Bureaucratese, the gobbledygook written by government bureaucrats designed to hide what they are really doing.”

And, kidding aside, there is a point to be made here. In my case it’s not just the writing of college students, but also the business plans I read regularly as part of my normal work life. There’s a lot to be said for short and simple English sentences.



  • Tim Berry says:

    Thanks Mike for the addition, and yes, count me in with the lawyers campaign.

    You reminded me of something. I did the class work for my MA in Journalism and then worked three years for United Press International before I finished my thesis. They gave me the degree with honors but said "the only thing we didn't like about your thesis was that you write like a wire-service journalist, not like an academic." I couldn't tell how much (if any) of that irony was intended.


  • Mike Shor says:

    "I wish he hadn't named it as he did"


    The reason it is named MBA-Writer is because the original phrases that seeded it were submitted to me in actual class assignments by my students (MBA candidates, of course).

    The not-so-subtle goal was to suggest that they may wish to drop the pretense and write in English.

    I'm glad we're on the same side of the crusade. Next up: make lawyers stop writing in passive voice (lawyers could be made by some to have written more clearly, having used less words?)


  • Simonne says:

    Very funny! The MBA writer writes almost like some of my former bosses :). There's no wonder I quit that job.

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