Corporate Jargon and What It Really Means

sneak peak: there is a lot of corporate jargon around nowadays; here's how to make sense of it all

Corporate Jargon and What It Really Means, imogen molly blog,

Translating one language to another is relatively easily done nowadays, with the advent of such wonders as Google Translate and its chums. Translating one language into a different bit of that same language, however, is not so simple.

Not to be dramatic, but we are being plagued by corporate jargon. There is a trend for buzzwords that is gaining more and more momentum, and I for one am feeling left behind. It seems the more newfangled and frankly made-up words you use, the more respected you are, and it makes no sense at all.

In order to help us all navigate this increasingly bizarre situation, I have pulled together a list of what I see to be the most commonly used terms, and their normal life alternatives which you can use if you want to sound less like a buzzword-spouting joke. Let's revolt.

I'm planning to lay it out in a helpful diagram so that you can save it and refer back to it when required, but that won't appear in search results and it also won't include long definitions, so for my own benefit as well as that of those looking for translations for these overly confusing words, I have just typed it out in full for now. Happy reading!

Agile (adj.) = responsive, versatile, quick. This is an actual software term (equally jargonous if you ask me) but is used in plenty of non-software contexts.

e.g. "Getting rid of job titles has made us a much more agile business." (lol imagine)
Translated: "Because of our ridiculous decision, we're able to quickly respond to market changes." / "We're trying too hard to be innovative and it makes us efficient and responsive." / "We move with the times so give us your custom."

Bandwidth (n.) = the time, motivation or other resources required in order to do something, because apparently we all think of ourselves as computers and electronic gadgets now.

e.g. "I don't have the bandwidth to own this project right now."
Translated: "I don't have time and saying it like that makes me feel too brutal." / "I've got too much on my plate and I will actually collapse if you give me anything else." / "I don't have capacity for that at the moment and I don't want to help you."

Best-practice sharing (v.) = doing something well and telling other people about it, now with an added side of arrogance and self-importance.

e.g. "I'm putting a meeting in for next week to do some best-practice sharing from my recent project."
Translated: "Something I did went well and I'm taking every opportunity to tell everyone about how great I am and how much of an expert I have become now that I am the best."

Buy-in (n.) = support, but with a decidedly financial edge and none of the personal side that usually comes with support.

e.g. "I've got executive buy-in on my new project."
Translated: "The top dogs are willing to fund my latest experiment with the expectation that it works, otherwise I'm screwed." / "I've got permission to do this so you have to help me now."

Cadence (n.) = regularity, rhythm or schedule at which you are doing something. This is a musical term which has nothing to do with music in this context, not to mention that the musical meaning bears absolutely zero resemblance to the business meaning.

e.g. "Let's decide on a cadence for this content."
Translated: "How often shall we post? That sounds like rookie phrasing, I should have used a buzzword." / "Let's draw up a schedule because then we will all actually understand what we are doing."

Connect (see also: reach out, link up) (v.) = talk to, get in touch with, contact.

e.g. "Reach out to Joe Bloggs and see if he can connect you with the right people."
Translated: "Ask Joe Bloggs to introduce you to the right people, but don't actually reach with your arms because that's weird and unprofessional." / "Contact whoever you need to get this thing done."

Deep dive (n.) = learning about or spending time educating yourself on something.

e.g. "Go on a digital deep dive, upskill yourself in Microsoft proficiency."
Translated: "Learn how to use Word." / "I have nothing useful for you to do so just read stuff and do your own thing."

Ecosystem (n.) = a business' collection of products or services when referred to as a whole; literally nothing at all to do with the environment, unless the business is a nature reserve.

e.g. "Our ecosystem is getting stronger by the day."
Translated: "We have more than one product offering now and we want to make sure everyone knows it."

Empowerment/ownership (n.) = when someone else wants you to do something, without directly asking you to do it; trickery.

e.g. "I want you to feel empowered to run with this, I think you're ready to take ownership for it."
Translated: "I am going to subconsciously get you to do my bidding without ever actually saying so." / "I don't want to do this, so you can instead."

Fail forward/fail fast/pivot (v.) = screw something up and pretend it doesn't matter because you have been blessed with so many learnings (we'll cover this one in just a minute) as a result.

e.g. "The project didn't go as planned, but we failed forward/failed fast/pivoted and now have a much stronger game plan for our next attempt, so we're really grateful for this experience."
Translated: "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." / "Denial is the way forward." / "I can do no wrong because I am great, so no I didn't fail actually, I learned."

Going forward (adv.) = in future.

e.g. "You should really do it this way going forward." / "Just something to bear in mind going forward."
Translated: "Don't mess up ever again, and consider this an official warning."

Learning (n.) = something you have learnt.

e.g. "We picked up some great learnings from their team."
Translated: "We learned a lot of things from their team, one of which was how to speak properly."

Leverage (v.) = use something to your advantage.

e.g. "We'll leverage our positive results from the previous campaign to attract greater buy-in for the next one."
Translated: "We'll remind the people with the cash that we did well last time. Please give us a bigger budget."

New logo (n.) = a successful deal; NOT an acquisition or a rebrand (although it really truly sounds like it is).

e.g. "Congratulations team, we've got a new logo!"
Translated: "Congratulations team, we've closed a deal! And we haven't bought any businesses and our logo is still the same, just to clarify."

Pain point (n.) = problem, issue, hurdle.

e.g. "Let's identify the pain points in the process we're currently using."
Translated: "He who smelt it dealt it - he who said 'pain point' is probably the pain point." / "There's a problem, but solving it is too simple so let's add some confusion in just to spice things up."

Scalable (adj.) = when something can be increased or rolled out on a larger scale with little to no extra effort.

e.g. "We need to come up with a scalable solution."
Translated: "We exclusively do things that don't require effort." / "We will only spend our time on things that will bring in huge amounts of moola without us really having to try, because what are we even here for if not the cash money dolla?"

Solution (n.) = product of any description, but often software; not actually a solution in the traditional sense of the word (whether that's an answer or a chemical liquid).

e.g. "Our solution is ground-breaking and will change the way businesses operate."
Translated: "We think our product is way better than it is." / "The word 'software' might alienate people less worldly wise and bamboozlingly intelligent than us, so we use 'solution' instead."

Upskill (v.) = educate, learn, improve the abilities of someone to do something; can also refer to objects rather than people ('upskill the factory')

e.g. "To make this project a success, we had to upskill the entire workforce."
Translated: "Nobody knew what they were doing and now they do." / "We employed people with no expertise because they are cheaper, but then we had to teach them stuff anyway."

Vertical (n.) = an area of business; working across verticals is, frustratingly, not referred to as working horizontally, which definitely sounds like working lying down.

e.g. "The teams coordinated across verticals to execute on this."
Translated: "In a brand new and never-before-seen business strategy, people worked with each other in different areas of the business. Incredible." / "Some employees actually speak to people outside their usual three colleagues now."

Win (similar: quick win) (n.) = a success, a closed deal, something that went well.

e.g. "There have been a lot of big wins this quarter, and for the next one we're focusing on quick wins."
Translated: "We executed on big projects, and now we're focusing on smaller, easier ones but more of them because after all that effort we are feeling quite lazy and tired." / "Our workforce needs a constant supply of good news, whether genuine or not, in order to stay motivated and also not leave the business please don't leave everyone we need you please stay we're winning."

I hope that has cleared things up for you, and will help you navigate the world of corporate buzzwords and jargon a little more easily. What are your favourite (least favourite?) terms?

- post #11 of 21 in the 21-day challenge -


  1. An interesting post. The world of various corporate words and jargon is very peculiar. Even before I started working, I thought about all the funny words.

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