Business Jargon That Works

Last Updated Apr 28, 2009 1:10 PM EDT

I'm a big fan of being direct. Not just because I grew up in New York, I also think life is too short for BS. That's why it pains me to say there actually is useful business jargon.

I know, everybody and his brother has bemoaned the horror that is corporate speak. It's one of 7 things Jeff Stibel, president of web.com, hates about business:

Business Speak. Synergy, sell side, bandwidth, enterprise solutions, ear-to-ear, eye-to-eye, deliverable, ETA, thinking-outside-the-box, facilitate, paradigm, SWOT...need I say more?
And BNET's CC Holland even wants to outlaw corporate jargon such as low-hanging fruit, parking lot, evangelize, and bleeding edge. I don't blame her.

All that said, I've found these ten concepts - and yes, the jargon that defines and describes them - to be surprisingly important management tools. And if you don't like it, let's take it offline instead of going down a rat-hole, okay?

A Lexicon of Surprisingly Useful Business Jargon

  1. Constructive confrontation. Defined and promoted by Andy Grove of Intel to get people to resolve issues and conflict without taking it personally: attack the problem, not the person.
  2. Goal alignment. One of the most critical and useful management tools for operational efficiency across organizational boundaries.
  3. Zero-based budgeting. A method of budgeting by prioritizing and justifying projects based on projected expense and return-on-investment.
  4. Strategic planning. A critical process for determining a company's future direction, including its key goals, strategies for achieving them, and business plans.
  5. Value proposition. What differentiates your company, products or services from the competition. An important corporate or product positioning tool.
  6. One-on-one. Another management tool from Intel. Periodic one-on-ones keep peers aligned and tuned into each other's issues; same goes for employee-boss, etc.
  7. Plan of record. Sometimes a name makes all the difference. Agree on a plan, record or document it, make sure everybody's there to change it. Eliminates plan du jour.
  8. Meeting etiquette. Meetings suck. To make them suck less, you have meeting etiquette: they start on time and end on time, everybody has a reason for being there or they shouldn't (be there), etc.
  9. What's in it for me? Whoever you're trying to negotiate with or sell to, internally or externally, put yourself in their shoes and ask WIIFM. It's a powerful tool.
  10. Negatron. A personal favorite - a person who finds the fly in every glob of ointment and never misses an opportunity to point it out. Also avoids cursing, as in, "Don't be a negatron!"
And yes, I am aware of the jargon I used in describing the jargon. Guilty as charged.