There is no shortage of jokes and jabs at corporate jargon. But here’s another.
Though the Internet has its fair share of lists and collections and compilations and generators, I felt too few of them actually helped remind us what they really meant and why they’re so hated — a PC obfuscation of business politics.
So this isn’t meant to be as comprehensive as the ones above, but rather a set of ones I really hear and have really come to understand to have a different, somewhat more subtle meaning.
In the past few years, I’ve gotten a taste of some and felt it took time to learn the most common underlying meaning. I use a lot of these words and phrases, and I don’t necessarily think that’s all that bad. Instead, I list them to help remind myself that I can often be more direct. Here’s my best shot at helping the cause for the rest of us.
My guide to corporate speak that I have consistently heard used in recent years:
- Alignment — agreement, i.e. Your plan sucks and mine is better, so let’s have a conference call to reach some alignment.
- All-hands meeting — every person with even a vague relationship to the topic, i.e. We need to design what font to use on this internal memo, so I’ve scheduled an hour all-hands meeting for Thursday.
- Analytics — data, i.e. I have recently found out what analytics mean, so I’d like daily reports of conversion for everything.
- Are we on the same page? — do you agree with me? i.e. I’ve explained as thoroughly as I feel the need to, so are we on the same page?
- As per our conversation — (1) You told me to do something stupid and I did it, or (2) I did all the hard work and am now delivering it to you perfectly i.e. As per our conversation,
- Asset — stuff, often boring stuff, i.e. Can you get me the asset list for tomorrow’s meeting?
- Ballpark figure — round number, i.e. I am a middle manager and so need to report to my supervisor about what you’re working on but don’t want to hear all the details, so give me a ballpark figure.
- Bandwidth — willingness to do something, i.e. I want to drop a bunch of work on you, do you have the bandwidth to get it done by next week?
- Best of breed — expensive stuff, i.e. I am pushing the executives to support us buying best of breed technology.
- Best Practices — valuable insight you better appreciate, i.e. This consultant we hired will be talking to us about the best practices of doing a redesign.
- Bring to the table — show up with, i.e. Figure out how quickly your team can turn this around and when we met, you can bring to the table an overall timeline.
- Champion — be responsible for something messes up, i.e. I need you to really champion this project.
- Circle back — talk later, i.e. I don’t really want to deal with this right now, so why don’t we circle back later on.
- CC — email carbon copy, i.e. I want to passive aggressively alert as many people as possible to your fuck up, so I’m going to CC the entire staff and your supervisor.
- COB — close of the business day, i.e. Collect the assets and deliver them to me by COB.
- Core-competency — stuff someone is definitely responsible for, i.e. I know you have taken on a lot of extra responsibilities lately, but this project really seems to be in your core-competency.
- Creative — stuff the designer made, i.e. Can you forward me the creative so I can include it in my report?
- Digital — Internet stuff. i.e. What is our digital strategy for our digital assets that will impact our digital users?
- Don’t “reinvent the wheel” — don’t put a lot of work into this, i.e. My supervisor asked for something stupid I don’t really care about, so I need you to help me, but don’t reinvent the wheel.
- Download after the meeting — write down notes or share what happened, i.e. I wasn’t able to make that meeting, but he did a download after the meeting and shared with me.
- Drill down — figure out how this thing is messed up, i.e. I think you and I need to have a conference call and really drill down on how we can fix this.
- e-anything — the web version of whatever word follows the one-letter prefix. i.e. We need to develop an e-marketing strategy so we can sell more stuff.
- Eyeballs — people we can sell to, i.e. We need to find a way to get more eyeballs onto this website quickly.
- Face time — in-person meeting, i.e. I asked to get some face-time with the CEO.
- Frictionless — fewer people in the decision making process, i.e. I asked my supervisor and he said he’s gotten approval to be the final say on the purchase, so we’ve made it frictionless.
- Impact — a perception that leads to more money, i.e. We launched a viral advertising campaign that had even more impact that we expected it to have.
- Leverage — use one thing to get another thing, i.e. The accounting department needs these files, so we can use them as leverage to ask for the thing we want.
- Low hanging fruit — stuff an un-paid intern can do that we can take credit for, i.e. We need to make some cost cuts, and I think there is some low-hanging fruit that we do right away.
- Offline, take this — Discuss in different company, i.e. Well, the executive will be pissed about the reasons why we can’t do this, so let’s take this offline and we’ll find a resolution.
- Outside the box — I don’t like your previous ideas, so we need something different, i.e. Those are good suggestions, but we need to think outside the box on this one.
- Phone tag — you’re avoiding my calls, i.e. It seems we’ve been playing some phone tag, so I hope you can call me back so we can figure this out.
- Proactive — solve my problems before I tell you about them, i.e. You’re doing great work, but I just want you to be a little more proactive.
- Piggyback — steal and give modest or no credit whatsoever for, i.e. I’d really like to piggyback on your idea and bring a proposal to the executives.
- Per se — a fancier filler phrase, i.e. Oh, that’s an unexpected question, but, I’d say, this isn’t the final draft, per se, it is something we’d need approval of.
- Plug-and-play — technology I don’t understand but presume to be simple, i.e. You don’t have to worry about the details of the new point of sale service, it’s a real plug-and-play tool.
- ROI — return on investment, i.e. What is the ROI of installing a new handrail?
- Seamless — you will be completely unaware of the problems, i.e. The transition from the outgoing manager to the new one will be seamless.
- Solutioning — to find a solution, i.e. Somebody fucked up, so rather than solutioning this now, we’ll take this offline.
- Stakeholder — people who we have to appease, i.e. I am going to schedule weekly meetings with all of the stakeholders.
- Synergies — opportunities to make money, i.e. You have a big pile of money and I think I have something you would want to buy, so we should find synergies so we both make out like bandits.
- Touch base — let me check in on your idiocy, i.e. Why don’t you give a first pass at creating a timeline for delivery, and we’ll touch base early next week.
- Win-win — The party I care about wins, and let’s assume the other one does too. i.e. That’s what my supervisor wants and it also sounds pretty good for the other department, so that’s a win-win.