I have always been fascinated by the buzz words that fuel business. Recently I was speaking with someone about a new process and she jokingly suggested we “storyboard” it. I love that expression, and the concept, because we can take something quick and easy and just get it done, or we can turn it into a whole production so that we can show off a shiny “deliverable”, another favorite.
Another thing we love to do with any idea is to “roundtable” it. There was a time when we would just say “meet” or even “brainstorm”, but we’re so desperate now we need to conjure up images of Camelot. Everyone now enjoys “bio-breaks” in the middle of “roundtabling” (yes, it’s a verb too); that way everyone can be clear about the purpose and not just use the 3.5 minutes to goof off or whatever. “Table it” means that even though there is a meeting to discuss whatever the “it” is, “it” will simply be deferred for another 5 years at which point “it” will be moot. Who knew there was such a big difference between a roundtable and just a plain old table? If people want to be less transparent about their intent they’ll substitute the expression “tickle it”, which means to set a reminder that you are never going to discuss the issue.
I still enjoy some classics like “run it up the flagpole” and “float it.” The most mainstream of all expressions is FYI, which my friend used to cleverly express as “F your I”. The really mundane stuff like “bean counter” and “suit” never really go out of style, but we have fabulous new substitutes such as “C-Suite”. Change Management isn’t terribly impressive these days unless it is a “sea change.” I remember “bifurcate” being in fashion for a while; absolutely everything had to be “bifurcated.” I engaged in a little gamesmanship and started “trifurcating” everything, which made “bifurcate” sound so last week. Also in favor for a while was “nimble” which meant a flurry of “roundtabling” to talk about how quickly the organization could implement “sea change”, which is ironic since by its very nature “roundtabling” slows everything down to a crawl.
Some expressions have run their lifespan and really ought to be left to die in peace; “buy-in”, “drill-down”, and certainly “out of the box,” which is code for encouraging everyone to think about new ways of doing things, and then completely diluting their ideas and cramming them back in the box. This has happened to me so much lately that now I don’t even peek over the edge of the box to check out the view. It’s easier to just “drink the Kool-Aid” and stay “on message.” I think we’re also well overdue to kill off “paradigm shift”, “repurpose”, “value add” and “value engineering.”
I guess I should admit I am as guilty as anyone of throwing all these expressions around. I like to “onboard” employees and “ramp up” projects and complain about people who actually focus on their work rather than “multitasking.” Jealousy, without a doubt, which is why if anyone comes to me with the slightest whiff of an idea I tell them to roundtable it and come back with deliverables. That’s just my fancy way of saying that anyone with new ideas must be reminded to keep their nose to the grindstone and their eyes to themselves. I’m too busy defining my brand to actually execute deliverables.