Who is Integrated Strategies?

February 21, 2008

Consulting Language (aka Buzzwords)

Buzzwords seem to be the stuff that consultants live off of. If they can they'll throw the words into every sentence they utter whether they are talking to a client or just simple everyday talk. It's at the point where all someone needs to do to instantly identify themselves as a consultant is start talking in buzzword circles.

Gen Y has an opinion of consultants (for better or worse it's there) and it comes from the movies. Office Space gave us the Bob's. That's who consultants are to us and sadly most consultants seem more than happy to fill that stereotype. It doesn't help that words and phrases such as:

synergy, rightsize, six sigma, lean, lean six sigma, efficiency, optimal processes, inventory rationalization, sourcing, paradigm shifts, strategic leveling of resources, knowledge management, process integration, disruptive innovation, value added anything, leveragable mindshare, extensible, uCommerce, iCommerce, accountability management, goal alignment, and don't forget the entire list of new environmental buzzwords

Sure these words all have a meaning and some can even be understood by a layman, but do they add any value to a conversation? The quick answer is no. The fastest way to lose a client is to speak over their head. Anyone who is knowledgeable about their field doesn't need to hear buzzwords and anyone who isn't knowledgeable won't understand the buzzwords.

Buzzwords came about because they are perceived to be quick ways to explain a complicated concept. Let's look at rightsize - the meaning of the word is to resize a process or area to match the actual operation requirements. Is it that much harder to say the sentence versus the word? It proves you understand the concept and aren't just throwing out words and also differentiates you from other consultants. If all of your competitors are using the buzzwords and you aren't that can be a competitive advantage over them. At the end of the day that could be the difference between you getting hired and them.

Another reason to avoid buzzwords when possible is because they create confusion. Buzzwords are meant to be vague and cover a wide array of options. Overuse of them can lead to confusion and conflicting opinions of what has been promised or what the scope of work is. Consultants are often seen as over-promising and under-delivering. Part of that is a lack of clarity in the language. Let's look at some examples of what they say/what they mean:

Say: Rightsize inventory through a rationalization project to optimize levels.
Mean: Set on-hand requirement levels to reduce inventory.

Say: Find synergies between groups by leveraging resources, processes and goals.
Mean: Find and eliminate unnecessary job duplication.

Say: Use six sigma process to value engineer the customer-facing processes of the call center.
Mean: Setup a process to eliminate errors that customers experience with the call center.

The list can go on and on but the result is always the same - there are easier ways to state a thought that doesn't include the use of buzzwords. When you are faced with someone determined to use buzzwords, let them know that you want them to state things a different way. If they aren't able to restate the thought then they probably don't know what they are saying to begin with. If they are able to then you'll probably have a more productive conversation.

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