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Consulting Doublespeak 101

For anyone who has encountered the world of Consulting or had a run-in with a suave, razor sharp, white-collar consultant in any shape or form (come on, isn’t that the stereotype that’s normally sold), would have noticed the difference in their lingo. This manner of speaking, the phrases, idioms, and jargons truly form the currency of communication in this glistening world. Boy, do they do it effortlessly and in a Bond-esque fashion, often throwing people off their guard, into a whirlwind of questioning their own game. Be it experienced professionals, middle-level managers or fresh from the oven amateurs, this breed of people just seem to speak a language of their own, leaving people outside this realm, feeling overwhelmed.

Consulting Wordplay

Well, not to worry, while not every such style can be absorbed or learnt, as it keeps evolving as the world gets more and more connected, boundaries vanish and cultures mix, but via this blog, I certainly want to create a starting point for readers to read, chuckle and who knows, even adopt some of this mastery and I aim to do that by introducing you’ll to some of the most commonly thrown around terms/phrases/statements and throwing light on what they mean. Let’s go for it!

Thinking Outside the Box - coming up with creative and unconventional solutions to problems. Consultants love to encourage thinking "outside the box" to find innovative ideas that others might not consider.

Low-Hanging Fruit – Nah, not the literal fruits hanging from trees. "Low-hanging fruit" refers to the easy or obvious opportunities for improvement. These are often targeted to show quick wins and build momentum for larger projects.

Drinking the Kool-Aid - someone who fully embraces and supports a particular idea or strategy, sometimes to the point of blind enthusiasm.

Boiling the Ocean - attempting to tackle an impossibly large or complex problem all at once. This phrase is to remind themselves and their clients to focus on manageable goals and priorities.

Herding Cats - a humorous way to describe the challenge of managing a diverse and unruly group of stakeholders or team members.

Blue Sky Thinking - "blue sky thinking" encourages imagining possibilities without constraints or limitations. Dreaming big and exploring ideas that might seem far-fetched at first.

Circle Back – a polite way of saying, "Let's come back to this when we have more information or time to discuss further."

Boil the Frog Slowly - gradually implementing changes so that people don't notice them right away and thereby avoid resistance or backlash.

Action plan – a systematic list of steps to be undertaken to achieve a specific pre-determined goal.

Add some colour - make something more interesting/appealing/persuasive.

AOB / Any other Business – casually used in a meeting agenda to block out time for miscellaneous discussions.

Back of the envelope – a calculation done quickly to provide a rough estimate of the value of something (the return on an investment, potential cost savings) to decide if a course of action is worth investing additional time to pursue or not.

Ballpark/10,000 feet view – a very high-level view or opinion on a subject at a preliminary stage, without delving into the details.

Bandwidth – very commonly used term describing the capacity one has, to take on additional work, both from a time and energy perspective

Buckets – informal word for categories, segments, or groups

Close the loop - to confirm a solution or an idea that has been thoroughly explored, with no loose ends.

Critical Path - key steps needed to be taken to complete a desired goal or project. The critical path is often a part of the action planning process.

C-suite – basically refers to any executive that has a title starting with a capital “C”, like “CEO”, “COO”, “CFO”, etc. & oh yes, Chief Happiness Officer too nowadays.

Drill-down - phrase used after a consultant summarizes a project and someone wants to go into the details.

Elevator Pitch - short persuasive summary of a proposal, which leaves the listener wanting to know more.

Eyeball – not rolling the eyeballs as it would seem, but to indicate scanning through or looking through a document

Facetime – being physically present, especially with a project manager or partner, to demonstrate your ideas and productivity. Facetime may include spending time in the office or at the client site to build relationships.

Fact Pack – A pack of information that provides the essential facts for a project/industry/company.

Hard stop – ahhh another classic! One of the hot favourite terms to say right at the start of a meeting to indicate that he/she cannot participate in that meeting beyond a particular time. Often a tool to indicate how busy or in-demand they are.

Leverage – to make use of. Afterall, what are we if not ‘resources’ and ‘human capital’, to be capitalized upon

MECE - short for Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive. A grouping principle that refers to creating subsets of items to ensure all relevant information is covered.

Peeling the onion – doing a deeper analysis, getting right to the bottom of a topic, layer, by layer.

PIOUTA – Pulled it out of thin air – just as it seems, winging a debate, argument, presentation or conversation, by bringing up a piece of information out of nowehere

Red-line version – primitive sounding alternative to refer to a document, with changes marked therein (more commonly known as track changes mode)

Right size / down-size – the easiest, no-brainer solution to cut costs and optimize an organization – by reducing the size of an organization via lay-offs/pink slips

Touch base - to meet at a certain time to talk about the project. Or at times a sugar-coated way to hide procrastination.

Weeds – weeds are the details of a situation, project or goal and one needs to get down and dirty to get to the bottom of a topic and discover all the details.

Where the rubber meets the road - the moment of truth or as filmy buffs can understand it as – doodh ka doodh aur paani ka paani

White space – an unexplored area that could generate more business or revenue for a company if ventured into.

WOMBAT / Waste of Money, Brain and Time – term used by these efficiency freaks to not dive into something that isn’t value adding to them

Understanding this trickery definitely helps navigate the intricate workings and complex world of consulting and also to not get overwhelmed when they put on their A-game and seem no less than wizards. Hopefully, with the above orientation you find yourself capable of playing along and maybe even slip right in and crack a joke or two about herding cats, boiling frogs or peeling onions!

To wrap it up, the next time you find yourself immersed in a conversation with consultants, don't be intimidated by the buzzwords. Rather, embrace them as tools for unlocking new insights and opportunities.

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