Various publications including Forbes magazine recently published their list of the most annoying business jargon. Jargon, as we know, is a way for people to feel like they are at one with their chosen profession. It’s (literally) a way to say they know things that other mere mortals do not. Of course there is terminology specific to any job, but what we are talking about here are words designed to make other people feel that they do not know the secret handshake for the club and would never be invited to join.
On the business side, and in the management consulting milieu in particular, there are many poster children for using a $100 dollar word when a $1 word is overcharging. I have a Dilbert cartoon that is now yellow with age, where Ratbert the evil management consultant (and really, is there any other kind) is presenting his deliverable (deliverable – noun. Proof that you are actually doing something for the money being paid, but may or may not be useful in either the short or long run. But anyway, that’s your fault because you asked for it in the RFP and we get a progress payment when we deliver it.). For example, as Ratbert says (and I quote): “here is my two by two matrix. Next month I hope to convert it to a concentric circle diagram.”
Recently, there seems to be a resurgence of the term ‘use cases’. This means something kind of like an example, but more like ways in which you can describe how to use something. For example, if you were shoe shopping, a store clerk at the top of her game could tell you all of the ‘use cases’ those $500 shoes would be ideal for. Luckily the average shoe salesperson has not gone to business school. On second thought, maybe they did but didn’t get enough of a handle on the lingo to make a go of it.
There is always some terminology that persists in the long term and some that reinvents itself regularly just to keep the excitement alive. In the old days we would simply do a presentation of findings (as either two by two matrices or concentric circles or even boxes within boxes). Now we do a read-out of results. On one hand, a read-out sounds simple. We all know how to read don’t we? What could be hard about that? On the other hand, it sounds somewhat mysterious (as all good business jargon should) – as in, if it sounds so simple I must be missing something so it must be very complex and certainly not something the average person would be able to conjure up.
Moving forward, at the end of the day, we need to drink the Koolaid, take one for the team, and make sure our bottom line is solid. If we don’t we will need to right size, optimize or seek synergies. Sorry, gotta go – my deliverable is overdue and I really want it to push the envelope.