Consultants use jargon as if it were a second language. It serves as a short-hand way to say boring things in a more pseudo-intellectual way. It is a chummy way to talk. It is if consultants were jealous of doctors & lawyers who have their own technical vocabulary. It’s all consulting jargon.
Generally, using jargon is a bad habit. It is nonsensical, and a bit annoying for the listener. That said, jargon is still something you should know, even if you don’t use it.
I grouped this jargon into different buckets depending on how much analysis was needed vs. how much analysis was done. This simple box is called a “two-by-two” matrix and is a favorite among consultants. It narrows down the key factors into the X and Y axis and forces you to group this into something easy to understand.
Bottom left (little analysis needed, little analysis done): At the beginning of a project, it is often necessary to just ballpark the number or do a back of the envelope calculation to get some initial estimates. Sometimes consultants guess at the answer early in the project and then continuously refine their hypotheses as they get more information.
Top left (analysis needed, but not done): Here the consultant made a mistake. Either they ran out of time, got lazy, or forgot to do the needed analysis. As a result, he is taking a SWAG at the answer – which is never a good idea. It is a lose-lose. Either the consultant tells the client that he guessing (lose) or hides the weakness in the analysis (lose).
Top right (analysis needed and completed): These two expressions are very common. After completing a broader analysis, it is often necessary to do a deep dive in specific areas. You often have to drill down into the the data to really find out what is going on. Deep dives are good things because they have a lot of rigorous analysis, but they are also very targeted.
Bottom right (analysis not needed, but done anyways): Here the consultant is wasting time. She has spent hours gathering data or doing analysis without a purpose. She is trying to boil the ocean, instead of thinking through the problem in a structured way. If the partner says you are boiling the ocean, it means that you are lost. Not a good sign.
Frankly, all of us spend too much time in meetings – so it is no surprise that there is a lot of jargon around this topic. Some of this jargon applies to things that happen before, during and after the meeting. You will find this straight-forward. . .
- Pre-read: A document sent to the attendees before the meeting with the expectations that people come prepared
- Parking lot: A way to make note of a tangential topic (not directly related to the meeting), so that it can be discussed later. This is a great tactic to re-direct the conversation to the main agenda
- To table: Just a fancy way to say “postpone”
- Hard stop: The latest that someone can stay in a meeting. This is a polite way of saying, “I have another obligation at that time, so don’t be offended if leave the meeting or drop off the call”.
- Offline: Just a fancy way to say “Later, in private” This is used to table a conversation until after the formal meeting. This also prevents a conversation between 2 people monopolizing the meeting time
The list of business jargon is endless. There is a website called The Office Life, which has a reservoir to 900+ “cringe-worthy” consulting-y words. If you listen closely, you will see how business jargon is used at your work. It can be overwhelming. Remember: the client wants you to speak clearly and with authenticity, not with business jargon and slang.