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This week's target is business jargon, which adds a lot of haziness to the language.

For every person who uses business buzzwords or phrases, I'll bet two don't know what they mean. Then two others use the words to fit into the corporate culture.

No, that was not a scientific study.

CNN provided a wonderful yet horrifying example of gobbledygook.

Management had plans "to leverage internal efficiencies by enlisting external resources, thus driving a reduction in operating costs, thereby enhancing shareholder value."

How do you interpret that?

We're laying off people to save money and please our stockholders.

Is that too stark?

Another way of glossing over layoffs is to say your company is "rightsizing." It must be right if it has the word in it.

Here are a few others:

Decisioning

It means making a decision. It's not that many words; it doesn't need to be shortened. "Pulling the trigger" translates the same way. At least it's not "triggerization."

Visioning

This means making a plan. This is close to decisioning, partly because it takes a fine noun and changes it into a far clunkier noun.

Empower

I hope most people can see through this subterfuge. Technically, this verb means to give power to someone. In many cases, though, it involves mundane tasks newly assigned to a group.

For example, "Starting March 1, we are empowering staff members to scrub the office toilets so as to guarantee privacy that is inadvertently hampered by the soon-to-be former cleaning staff."

Ideation

You don't want people to simply think about things. They must engage in ideation. The practice had better involve comfy couches and two kinds of scones.

Solutioneering

This, too, is the act of thinking. I think of Disney Mouseketeers when I hear one of these words.

Pivot

Wow, I wasn't familiar with this one. "Pivot" means that something you did wasn't working, so you made adjustments. This sounds like the proper way to fix things. But pivot apparently sounds braver.

Pre-revenue

This one makes me just laugh and laugh. It is supposed to be a softer way of saying "not making any money."

Snackable content

In another land, a long, long time ago, this was called a quick tip. The presumption is that people can take in only a tiny bit of information at a time. So on your website, for example, keep it simple and short. Viewers are there for just an information nosh.

Game changer

This is an idea that's so good it will shift the way people think about things. No ego there.

Best practices

Sure, it's the best way of doing things. So what if we got the idea from our competitors?

Move the goal

This appears to be worse than deflating a football, and it's clearly not regulation. It's when the boss changes the requirement so that it's harder — and sometimes impossible — for workers to reach the goal.

BBC said "alignment" was hot. Alignment means matching your products to what the customer wants. Is this a novel idea?

A funny website, unsuck-it.com, helps people to translate business jargon.

Open the kimono?

It means to share information.

Blue-sky thinking?

Imagining solutions that work in the world with no obstacles. Good luck with that.

Greenfield?

Useful after blue-sky thinking is dashed. It's where you quietly bury those blue-sky thinking ideas. At least this closes the circle.

I have a theory that people fall back on these awful phrases because they are required to speak to groups about business plans and goals. They have two minutes of material but fill eight minutes with fluff.

The presentation goes something like this:

Purpose of talk ... buzz phrase... buzz phrase ... buzz phrase ... pointing to visual evidence ... fact ... fact ... buzz phrase ... buzz phrase ... fact ... closing.

My other theory is that the more business buzzwords you use, the richer you think you'll get.

Sources: RB.com, BBC.com, CNN.com, JeffBullas.com, Mashable, Huffington Post, Real Business, Free Dictionary, Forbes, Merriam-Webster.

bkwordmonger@gmail.com

Style on 02/04/2019

Print Headline: Corporate jargon just laughable

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Archived Comments

  • mozarky2
    February 4, 2019 at 8:03 a.m.

    One of the best-turned phrases I've ever heard was the reply of my employer's CEO to the question, "Who is most important, our customers, our employees, or our stockholders"?
    "The customers, employees, and stockholders form an equilateral triangle, with the stockholders at the top".

  • GeneralMac
    February 4, 2019 at 9:08 a.m.

    Here is a quote management uses on remaining employees after the company has a layoff or impose a hiring freeze......."We're not asking you to work harder, but to work smarter"

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