mba jargon watch

MBA Jargon Watch is the illegitimate brainchild of an MBA and full-time member of the dotcom proletariat petite bourgeoisie (I got a promotion). The intent of the Web site is to elucidate, amuse, and gently mock users and consumers of management, business, and consulting jargon. The definitions listed were selected using JargonRank, a proprietary measure based on the word's frequency of use among management professionals, students, professors and staff. Want to contribute to the cause? Suggest a new word or phrase here.

The MBA Jargon Index, Page 1 (Letters A-M)

actionable (adj.)
Capable of being acted on or completed in the near future. "Which items on our list are actionable in the next quarter?" I recommend showering after using this one. Note: "actionable" has a long-standing legal meaning different from the above.
ask (n.)
After years of losses to the verbs, the nouns strike back by converting the verb "ask" into an utterly superfluous synonym for request. Also, your ask is mine.
at the end of the day
Based on the frequency with which they use the phrase, it would seem that members of senior management are required by law to begin every third sentence with "at the end of the day," a phrase similar in meaning to "when all is said and done." For instance, your favorite CEO might say, "At the end of the day, it's our people that make the difference." Insert platitude here.
bandwidth (n.)
Plan your work well lest ye run out of "bandwidth," or physical, mental or emotional capacity. Spake our friend Frank B. Kern, Internet Guru, "....I just don't have the bandwidth to handle this at the minute," meaning "I don't have the manpower or ability to handle this at the minute."
best of breed (n. and adj.)
The finest specimen or example to be found in a particular industry or market. Like Papillons preening for the judges, companies position themselves as best-of-breed. In truth, however, few ever make it through the qualifiers.
best practices (n.)
Another widely used term promulgated by the arch-demons of business - management consultants - "best practices" is used to describe the "best" techniques or methods in use in a company, field, or industry. Unfortunately, companies often confuse latest or trendiest with best, and the best practices of one era are soon superseded by the ever-more-ludicrous fads of the next.
boil the ocean (v. phrase)
Clearly the least efficient way to produce a pile of salt. If a member of the corporate pantheon suggests you are trying to "boil the ocean," he or she thinks you are doing something incredibly inefficiently. It's time to prepare your resume, Einstein.
bring to the table (v. phrase)
Refers to what one offers or provides, especially in negotiations. Personally, I bring a fork.
business model (n.)
An amorphous term having to do with identifying the specific ways in which a business creates value, or simply put, how it sells stuff for more than it costs. I'll show you my business plan if you show me yours.
buy-in (n.)
A cute way of saying "agreement" or "consent." If you hope to get anything done in today's corporation, you'll need management buy-in.
centers of excellence
Certainly beats centers of failure. Most companies have a nice set of both.
circle back around (v.)
A very roundabout (pardon the pun) way of saying "Let's regroup later to discuss."
circle with (v.)
Like its cousin "circle back around," it means "to meet and/or discuss with." Usage example: "Why don't you circle with Robert tomorrow to discuss the Ebbers case?" I can't help but envision two well-dressed exec types holding hands and madly circling around to the delight of everyone in their cubicle farm.
c-level (adj.)
Those modest, hardworking souls at the top of your org chart: CEO, COO, CFO, CIO, CPO, CTO, Chief Dog Walker, etc.
close the loop (v. phrase)
To follow up on and/or close out an area of discussion. Closely related to "circle back around" and "loop in."
commoditize (v.); commoditized (adj.)
A great fear and apprehension in business is having your product or service become "commoditized," or turned into Just Another Mediocre Piece of Junk (JAMPoJ to those in the know), completely undifferentiated from its peers.
componentize (v.)
Nigh unpronounceable, this gremlin means "to turn into a component." For what purpose will forever remain a mystery.
core competencies (n.)
Simply put, it means "what the company does best." When a company focuses on its core competencies, it gets back to basics. I recommend leveraging these.
critical path (n.)
A sequence of events where a slip in any one activity generates a slip in the overall schedule. Used extensively in the exciting world of project management. Not to be confused with "criminal path," which is a sequence of events that leads to jail, a la Andy Fastow of Enron fame.
cycles (n.)
A reference to computer processing cycles, this one can be used interchangeably with bandwidth. Either way, it's a bad idea comparing yourself or another humanoid to an indefatigable machine. You'll lose.
deliverables (n.)
Denoting project output or assignments, "deliverables" are often "tasked" (see below), but seldom completed.
descope (v.)
Please see "scope" on page 2.
dial-in (v.)
Despite the obvious reference to a telephone, this one means to "include." For example, "We need to dial-in the materials list."
dialogue (v.)
It's true that Shakespeare used "dialogue" as a verb ("Dost Dialogue with thy shadow?"). But I've got news for ya, buddy: You ain't no Shakespeare. Resist the temptation to use this utterly superfluous verb as a substitute for "talk" or "speak." Usage example: "Let's dialogue telephonically via land line," meaning "call me at the office." Sigh.
In the bleak days before the arrival of our savior, the Web, Big Tony used to claim that he had "eliminated the middleman to bring direct savings to you." Big Tony used a shotgun to eliminate ("disintermediate") intermediaries in the supply chain; today's companies use the Internet.
disambiguate (v.)
This mouthful began life in the exciting field of linguistics only to be co-opted by the high-tech business set. It means to settle on a single interpretation or meaning for a piece of data, or to bring meaning and order to ambiguity. Much like this Web site.
The third member of the incent-incentivize-disincent axis of evil.
drill-down (v.)
To get down to the details. One starts at a "high-level" and "drills down" to the boring details - where exectutives fear to tread.
drinking the kool-aid (v. phrase)
A rather tasteless reference to the Jonestown massacre of 1978, "drink the kool-aid" means to accept something fully and (oftentimes) blindly.
driver (n.)
If you think this one has something to do with the people who drive trucks, you're wrong (but I still like you). It refers to the factors or agents that move something forward: "What are the key drivers of organizational change?"
eat(ing) your own dog food (v. phrase)
When your company starts using its own products internally and suddenly realizes why the rest of the world hates them so much.
ecosystem (n.)
Companies now longer participate in industries; they inhabit vast ecosystems comprised of consumers, partners, innocent bystanders, and, increasingly, competitors. The idea is to be at the center of your ecosystem, so integral to its operations that the actions of all other participants seem to benefit you as much as them (also see Network Effects). But remember to look out for lions.
elevator story (n.)
A pitch to a corporate executive, or bored janitor, as the elevator goes from floors 1-10 and you have a captive audience. Also the name of an upcoming Tom Hanks movie.
enabler (n.)
Like your dysfunctional family, business is full of enablers - things that enable something else, often of a self-destructive nature.  For instance, were you aware that "Total Facilities Management is a Core Business Enabler"? Weird, I wasn't either.
end-to-end (adj.)
Seemingly naughty, this one means "complete, from the front-end (the end that faces the customer) to the back-end (your back office, which no one sees)." Try to avoid this one in mixed company.
facetime (n.)
A foreign concept to many of us in the Internet world, "facetime"refers to time spent speaking face to face, especially to senior management. For example, "I need to arrange some facetime with you next week."
feature/scope creep (n.)
The temptation to add more and more features to a product release until it becomes a confused mass of incongruous elements, twisted and evil.
functionality (n.)
Simply meaning "functions" or "features," this one has gained widespread currency.
gain traction (v.)
To gain momentum or acceptance. "Cisco's new routers are gaining traction in the marketplace."
going forward (adv.)
Meaning "in the future" or "from now on." For instance: "Going forward, we see our gross margins increasing as our new high-margin products gain traction."
granular (adj.); granularity (n.)
Getting down to the fine details, the nitty-gritty. Busy people might stop you mid-sentence if you get too granular. Like sand through an hourglass, these are the days of our lives.
go-live (adj. and v.)
A new product or system becomes available to the public on its "go-live" date. Presumably, the same product or system will "go-dead" soon thereafter.
heads-up (n. sorta)
"This is a heads-up" is a very American way of saying, "I'm telling you this now because xyz item is hurdling in your direction and you're going to need to do something or get out of the way." It's simultaneously a notice and a warning.
helicopter view (n.)
See "at 30,000 feet".
high-level (adj.)
Senior executives, far-sighted individual with godlike abilities to see the big picture, want anything brought to their attention to be "high-level", that is, neatly summarized and dumbed down so they can understand all the techno mumbo jumbo.
incent (v. tr.)
A transitive verb meaning "encourage" or "influence": "The program was set up to incent users to spend more." Also the leading member of the incent-incentivize-disincent axis of evil.
incentivize (v. tr)
The second member of the incent-incentivize-disincent axis of evil.
instantiate (v.)
The unholy offspring of "instant" and "substantiate," "instantiate" means to verify or document an instance of a particular behavior or issue.
leapfrog (v.)
To surpass your competition, usually by engaging in one gigantic, hopelessly ambitious leap of faith that is almost sure to end in ruin and despair. Bring a parachute, golden or other.
learnings (n.)
Word favored by consultant-types meaning "something learned." Apparently, "lesson" wouldn't do despite 500 years of continuous use in the English language.
leverage (v. tr)
The grandpappy of nouns turned verbs, "leverage" is used indiscriminately to describe how a resource can be applied to a particular environment or situation. "We intend to leverage our investment in IT infrastructure across our business units to drive profits."
level set (v.)
To get everyone on the same page, singing from the same choir sheet, etc. Why neither of these tired, but well-understood perennials is good enough is beyond me. I guess "level set" just has that I-am-slightly-smarter-than-you-all ring to it.
long-pole item (n.)
Those of you who enjoy the occasional camping trip may recognize the provenance of this one: The long pole holds up the center of the tent and is therefore the most essential structural item. Likewise, a "long-pole item" is the most essential element of a system or plan, upon which all other elements depend. A linchpin, as it were.
loop in (v.); keep in the loop (v. phrase)
Used by loopy people who mean to say, "to keep apprised."
low-hanging fruit (n.)
The easy pickings, the obvious steps that an organization should take to improve its performance or take advantage of new opportunities.
mindshare (n.)
Sorta like "marketshare," but without the revenue and sounding a whole lot creepier. Don't use this one around Vulcans.
mission-critical (adj.)
Meaning "critical to the functioning or success of a business or project," this one is generally used in reference in insanely expensive computer hardware that should be bulletproof, but, alas, is not.
modularize (v.)
To turn into a training module. Say, you start off with a simple piece of information that anyone with a 6th grade education and a quartet of functioning brain cells would instantly grasp. To justify your position as a highly paid corporate trainer, you might try to veil this information in a cloak of incomprehensibility, rendering the straightforward a smelly pile of jargonous bile. Indeed, the information has been modularized.
monetize (v.)
The noble mission of Web slingers everywhere: figuring out how to make money off each page view, visitor (eyeballs), or anything else. If you work at an Internet company, you've used this term... don't lie. Hell, even I've used this term.
Page 2 (Letters N-Z)