Several years ago, I received an email that was titled, as I recall, “Boardroom Bingo.”
The amusing missive detailed the rules of an irreverent parody of bingo that several conspiring colleagues could play during boring meetings liberally sprinkled with typical business euphemisms and corporate-speak.
Whenever one of a predetermined series of phrases was used, such as “win-win,” or “synergy,” you would mark the corresponding box on your scorecard.
When you hit bingo, you would scream out “bullspit” (edited here for content) and go on to the next game. Among those play-to-win phrases in Boardroom Bingo was “proactive.”
One of the things I’ve always found amazing about the English language was that once you hear and learn the meaning of a new word, how often you subsequently hear it used in casual conversation or read it in print.
After that, I began to hear or read the word “proactive” with an almost alarming frequency.
It was, as I learned, not necessarily a new word but one that for some reason became a recent embedee in the American business lexicon.
Now you can make all the jokes you want about business-speak, but the process of being proactive is probably not one those in the accounting or regulatory business should ignore.
Case in point:
The Securities and Exchange Commission recently unveiled a 62-page “blueprint,” if you will, on its future direction.
Among its proposals was an idea to become a self-funding entity after Oct. 1, 2006, as lawmakers have called for curtailing fees on securities trading. When enacted, that would shrink fee collections on stock trading about $1 billion.
Among the other ideas outlined in the regulator’s plan was that the agency become more — you guessed it — proactive in detecting risks and fraud.
In blunt honesty, the report stated that, "for too long, the commission found itself in a position of reacting to market problems rather than anticipating them."
In the Byzantine world of financial fraud that’s probably not a good thing. It’s sort of like placing a “no hiking” sign atop Mount St. Helens.
The agency’s newly formed risk assessment office would, according to the report, become more, ahem, proactive, in its pursuit of corporate fraud and other investor-harmful behavior.
The SEC has even put the report out for public comment on its strategic plan, the first time it has ever done that.
But I’m sure folks at the regulator would cringe, or at least break out their Boardroom Bingo boards, at the first mention of its plan being a “win-win” for America’s investing public.
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