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 2 (Letters
Page 1 (Letters
- next steps (n.)
- "Next steps" are the tasks delegated to attendees at the close of a meeting. Next steps often result in deliverables. I
believe "next steps" and "action items" are synonymous. Do
humanity a favor
and avoid both.
- net-net (n.)
- The end result, the bottom line, etc. ad
infinitum, ad nauseam. "Net-net, we're still ahead."
- network effects (n.)
- A wonderfully prosaic term from economics describing how some products or services become more useful
as the number of users rises. Online auctions (eBay), operating systems (Windows), and social networks (Facebook) are three oft-used
- offline (adv.)
- "Let's discuss this offline." Euphemism
frequently uttered in long office meetings meaning: "Let's discuss this
later in private because you're way off topic again, idiot."
- operationalize (v.)
- A horribly polysyllabic way of saying
"carry out" or (gasp) "do." Oh, the humanity!
- optics (n.)
- How an action will be perceived by the outside world. For example, treating your customers like crap will be perceived as "bad."
- out of pocket (adj.)
- Out of touch or out of the office for a few days.
- paradigm [shift] (n.)
- Paradigm is an extra fancy word for "model." A paradigm shift means moving from one model to a new one, generally in a grand, expensive, and ultimately disastrous manner. If I had a pair of dimes for every
time I've heard this one...
- peel the onion (v. phrase)
- To conduct a layer-by-layer analysis of a complex problem and in the process, reduce yourself to tears.
- performance management (n.)
- A euphemistic way of saying to micro-manage,
berate, motivate, psychologically manipulate, threaten, and then fire
- ping (v.)
- A "repurposed" UNIX command meaning to send a
message to another computer and wait for acknowledgment, ping means to follow up with someone
via email on an urgent, but arcane matter and wait interminably for a reply. "I'll ping Henry on the Ewok matter."
- proactive (adj.)
- The modern-day antonym of "reactive."
Rumor has it that this gem was created in the 1970s out of the parts of lesser
- productize (v.)
- An fugly word meaning "turn into
a product." Why should software vendors offer free technical support when
desperate users will pay $3 a minute for help?
- programmatically (adv.)
- If your people are too daft to do
something correctly, maybe you should look to software programs to automate the task.
If you follow this approach, you are completing the task "programmatically."
- pushback (n.)
- If you have a lot of sound, logical ideas,
you're bound to run into a lot of resistance in today's surreal
corporations. This resistance, often polite but always absurd, is
euphemistically called "pushback." Try not to take it personally: you're
dealing with the insane.
- quick win (n.)
- Everyone in business is always looking for
"quick wins," small steps or initiatives that will produce immediate,
- ramp up (v.); ramp-up ( n.)
- To increase over time. "We intend to
ramp up production in anticipation of holiday demand." Just try not to cramp
- reach out (v.)
- To call or email. For this one, we can blame those old AT&T ads that encouraged folks to "reach out and touch someone." Obviously, you can't
actually reach out and TOUCH anyone due to your company's stringent sexual-harrassent policy. But you can "reach out" (but, again,
no touching) to a co-worker for information, support, or to start one of those crucial conversations. But keep any interaction
to a phone call or email just to be on the safe side.
- real-time (adj.)
- Everyone probably has an intuitive
understanding of what is meant by "real-time," but that hasn't stopped many
companies and consultants from using the term to describe a quixotic concept
whereby a company's data is always up-to-date and available to
whomever needs it, whenever they need it.
- repurpose (v.)
- To take a process or system designed for one
task and use it for another -- usually in way unforeseen by its creators. In the
fast-moving Internet economy, repurposing has become a viable substitute for
- robust (adj.)
- Typically used in reference to
software, this classic means "not buggy and not a huge waste of resources."
Or more precisely, something that works well even under extreme conditions.
- roll out (v.); roll-out (n.)
- Companies are constantly introducing new
products and services that you don't want or need. The elaborate process of
introducing something new is a "roll-out." The verb form is used thusly: "We
rolled this piece of crap out to the curbside."
- rough order of magnitude (n.)
- Fancy way of saying "to make a wild (ass) guess."
- scalable (adj.)
- Describes how flexible a system is in
response to increases in scale (number of users, hits, etc.). It might also have
something to do with mountain climbing.
- scope (v.)
- To set the scope of a product, i.e. to
determine what "functionality" will be included. After products are
"scoped," they are invariably "descoped" as reality reasserts itself.
- seamless (adj.)
- The holy grail with ERP and other
complex systems is to produce a "seamless
end-to-end solution." The seams are the bottomless pits of hell into which your
data falls when transferred from one end of the solution to the other. See
also the entries for "end-to-end" and "solution."
- skip-level (n.)
- A meeting where big-shot execs ignore the normal corporate hierarchy, jump down a level or two, and slum it with the plebs.
- socialize (v.)
- To share a document or plan within an organization, in the vain hope of
getting actionable feedback from your "peers." Also, the act of taking Fido
to the park to get him used to other dogs.
- solution (n.)
- Companies no longer sell products or
services; they sell "solutions," which are products or services, but more
- soup to nuts (adj.)
- To build every aspect of something from beginning to end. An integrated
approach. Oh, the hubris of it all.
- space (n.)
- The final frontier? Are you daft? No, just the niche
or market segment your company currently inhabits or hopes to enter. Or, as
your CEO might put it, "How can we leverage our core competencies to enter
- special sauce / secret sauce (n.)
- We can thank McDonald's for this one.
It's used to refer to anything proprietary.
- surface (v.)
- While many of our more jargon-illiterate
readers might envision submarines upon first hearing this word, it is used
by management professionals as a synonym of "raise," as in "raise concerns."
For instance: "I think we need to surface those issues before the product is
- synergy (n.); synergize (v.)
- The (often illusory) value gained by
combining two or more companies or divisions. Also known as "economies of
scope" and "corporate merger BS."
- takeaway (n.)
- The essential points of a
presentation, activity, etc. that the author hopes you will "take away."
Also has something to do with food in the Queen's English.
- take to the next level (v. phrase)
- I used to know a guy with a Level 20
Wizard. But seriously, this means to move a product, service, or organization from its current level of dysfunction to the next level of dysfunction.
- task (v. tr.)
- Yet another noun turned verb, this one
means "to assign." Now go
task someone with some deliverables.
- 30,000 feet, at
- A high-level view or explanation. Please keep
in mind that oxygen is in short supply at this altitude, so you may
- touch base (v.)
- A naughty sounding gem, "to touch base" is simply a request to meet again to discuss the current
status of a project or task. "Rebecca, I would like to touch base with you
later to discuss the Smith account." You gotta think this one leads to
a lot of lawsuits...
- tps reports (n.)
- Click here for a thorough explanation
of TPS Reports.
- traction (n.)
- Something you should be trying to gain right now. See "Gain Traction"
- turnkey solution (n.)
- Wouldn't it be great if you could buy
a complex system or piece of software, plug it in, flip a switch and be off
and running? Oh poor Odysseus, you have once again been beguiled by the IT sirens'
song. Keep dreaming.
- value-add (n.)
- What's the point? No, really, that's
what it means.
- value chain (n.)
- As I find it impossible to define
"value chain" without sullying myself with the very thing that I abhor most
(jargon, for those of you keeping score), I've chosen to "borrow" from
another site a definition so preposterous that I just had to include it: "a
business methodology that helps companies manage marketplace variability and
complexity, and align company strategies with execution processes." Thanks
- value proposition (n.)
- The unique set of benefits that
you offer to customers to sucker them into
buying your product or service. Sometimes shortened to "value prop,"
as in "What's your value prop?" Word.
- wet signature (n.)
- I'm not sure I want to touch this one, but
apparently this means a human signature, as opposed to an electronic one. I mean, do you plebs still sign stuff?
- wetware (n.)
- You, me, your grandma, everyone (assuming you're a
carbon-based life form). That is, a human-based solution, as opposed to a
hardware, or silicon-based, solution.
- It's a win for us; it's a win for
them. Everyone's happy and drinking the Kool-Aid.
- world-class (adj.)
- Means you're best in class, a
benchmark. If your product, service or solution ain't world-class, you
might as well close up shop and go home. Luckily, everything at your
corporation is either world-class now, or will be by next quarter. Or at
least that's what management's been telling everyone.