I am enamored with the corporate lingo that most of the business analysts in my company use. I realize being a developer that cutting the BS and getting to the point isn't going to take me far in life. So, in my attempt to look towards leaping at jobs which pay more, I figure I need to now be able to learn how to weave mindless chatter enriched with corporate lingo.

Sadly over the years I have trained my mind to cut listening to it and now am lost for resources to be able to talk the talk. What would be the best way to go about learning to talk the corporate jargon ?

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    I strongly strongly strongly disagree that using corporate ambiguisms will have a positive effect on your career. Soft skills are important (you can't cut the BS and get to the point all the time), but don't mistakenly assume that soft skills are equivalent to corporate jargon. – jmac Oct 3 '13 at 2:32
  • The most effective trick to learning corporate jargon is to become a senior executive (preferably C level or higher) of a major corporation. Whatever words you choose will become corporate jargon and it will be up to others to figure out what they mean. – emory Oct 3 '13 at 14:52
  • I would probably find some business/management bestseller books and browse through them to see if they have similar jargon, then read them through. Maybe read jargon-rich emails repeatedly. Then practice writing imaginary emails. Then gouge out my eyes as a partial apology to the English language. Er, I mean, become rich and successful. – psr Oct 3 '13 at 17:06
up vote 0 down vote accepted

Apart from all the above, if I were you I'd do this :

  1. Get a job in a consulting firm (if possible in one of the Big 4)
  2. You have now got yourself access to a truck load of such jargon being thrown in almost every meeting. Keep your ears open.
  3. Once in your mind you have figured out what the bottom line is, consciously train your ears to pick up new lingo.
  4. Write down all of the new words you hear. Also if you have Word Web or any dictionary, immediately look up the meaning and try to figure out what really the speaker is trying to say.
  5. Practice making sentences by connecting these words together. Have a baseline idea for yourself. Then put it in an email with all the corporate lingo you have picked up.
  6. Start using these words fluently when talking with friends or family. Expect some weird looks. Watch a lot of movies and read novels. Learn the art of weaving stories and fables around matters of fact and basic bottom lines. This is an art.
  7. Almost immediately, you can use some of the words in emails that you send or just by the water cooler (chat).
  8. Slowly and surely there will be a paradigm shift. You have rolled your sleeves, worn many hats, hit the ground running, done all the heavy lifting and been the front line soldier for yourself - pretty soon you will be the one talking the talk.

Good luck.

  • I am actually employed with one of the Big 4 and hence my realization of the need to learn. Sterling answer. – AussieMoss Oct 7 '13 at 0:12

You need to buy into your organization's vision statement and core values to leverage your skillset and reap the benefits of synergy with your team members by achieving your goals and objectives.

Once you fulfill these metrics you will achieve work life balance, meaningful work, fulfillment of corporate responsibilities, satisfied stakeholders, and nirvana.

As a key takeaway, make sure you have a list of action items to followup with key individuals so you can fully understand their business paradigm and key competencies.

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    Thats what I am talking about. Can you please tell me - where and how did you pick up learning on these mate ? – AussieMoss Oct 3 '13 at 2:30
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    +1 for making me laugh! Do buzzwords come naturally to you, or did you have to get an MBA for that? – rbwhitaker Oct 3 '13 at 2:54
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    This level of corporate jargon truly demonstrates our organization's commitment to synergy with the needs of our customers. We have established key performance indicators for all metrics related to jargon-creation, and we use advanced techniques to seamlessly integrate those into our business model. That is why we are an industry leader. – jmac Oct 3 '13 at 10:13
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    This strategic solution accrued two positive outcomes at Buzzword Bingo. @AussieMoss, the content is entirely sarcastic. – Blrfl Oct 3 '13 at 10:50

That's because the best books are top secret. If you want to truly leverage your resources at hand to maximize synergy for key stakeholders, look no futher than Scott Adams. He is a leading industry expert on the cutting edge of data-driven metrics to better drive a management team in a goal and bottom line oriented modern workplace.

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Dogbert's Top Secret Management Guide

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Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel

and many, many more...

Seriously though, if you want to learn the language without truly having buy-in from all the key stakeholders (aka yourself), I believe any one of Scott Adams' fine books should help you--and they're a joy to read too (who says you are too old for comics)!

Project Management Lingo

A decent amount of corporate-speak comes from the world of project management. How people think and communicate about cost, schedule, artifacts, and risk generally come from courses on project management. There's halfway decent college courses and bootcamps for certifications out there. But a decent Project Management 101 book might actually cover the basics for a whole lot less time and money.

From the perspective of moving into a technical management role, that's the lingo I'd most recommend, as it relates most directly to any business' most essential question - "can we get this crap done and make more dough without hemorrhaging cash while doing so?"

Accounting Lingo

In some businesses, Accounting Lingo is another ball of fun. Project Management lingo is about managing the work and the deliverables. Accounting is really the money. How things depreciate, the revenues and profits, who makes money from what and how and how things get paid for. This can be a big deal the closer you get to the finances of the business, in a big company, that may be a long time in coming, but it depends how you are structured.

An accounting course can cover this, or an online e-Course. Practical examples can be very helpful, it's a math model, really.

Process Lingo

There's a bunch of process improvement/process management methodologies - Lean Six Sigma, CMMI, CMM, ISO 9001, and probably many others. The lingo is often process specific and what your company uses is going to dictate which of these you want to learn anything about. There's tons of books and bootcamps on any of the major ones.

Honestly, though, many companies tweak and tune this stuff, so another easy way to learn it is to ask people what they mean when this stuff comes out of their mouth.

Meaningless Corporate Speak

Along with these various terms and concepts, there's plenty of empty words for stuffed shirts out there. Empowerment, proactive, vision, strategy, tactics, etc - it's not entirely meaningless, but it's also not part of any codified discipline. There's plenty of management books out there that each sell some vision for how to make everything work great and how to be a better leader. Alot of these phrases come from those books, but a lot are also just corporate words that have oozed into existence. Urban Dictionary will probably cover a nicely snarky version of this stuff... but there are actually a few really decent leadership books out there. The goal is just not to buy in 100% - every idea is good... at the right time... in moderation...

  • IMHO, there is no single corporate jargon. Each industry, each department, and sometimes different geographical offices, will each have its own. As mentioned above Project Management has a lot; as do Tech, Management, Accounting, Finance (yes, Accounting and Finance are different), Accounts Payable and Receivable, HR, Recruiting, etc. will all have their own lingo, jargon, abbreviations, acronyms, etc. Depending on how much/little you know, you might be better off than you think. Even after 20 years in Tech Mgt, I run across things every day that I didn't know. – MikeP Aug 3 '16 at 19:43

As much as I enjoy some of the other answers and love Scott Adam's work, I'd like to offer a bit of a serious take on the OP's question (what sort of alternate reality did I enter that I'm going to try to be serious one?).

First of all, business analysts are people too :) And like all people, people in a technical trade develop jargon - often what seems like a complete vocabulary stuffed full of specialized words, phrases, and non-standard usages. Sometimes it reaches a point where it's like they are speaking a completely different language - the Math Stack Exchange site is great for this. I love reading it sometimes, because it is so often written in pure Mathlish (Mathon?) that I retreat to English Language Learners to make sure I still know English. It's humbling.

Being a developer, this has likely become so second-nature that you know longer realize how weird your usages of some words are to people outside your peer group. As an example, someone outside of design will almost never refer to anything as an "interface" (they access or use, they don't interact with an interface ever), they don't "develop" anything other than maybe real estate (they "come up with" or "think about" a plan, maybe). People read words, not "text", "iterating" would be something you might need to see a doctor for, and it's polite to keep your hands to yourself and do your grepping in private.

Because of this, we can apply some general linguistic knowledge to business analysts. Like anyone else, people who are unsure of themselves and lacking in confidence often use excessive verbiage and invoke overly complex concepts to attempt to establish themselves as knowledgeable, powerful, or high in status; this works only when the other person has considerably less awareness, status, or knowledge, as people who know their stuff and don't need to bluster know that we don't need to have a to "colocate cross-disciplinary knowledge centers and synchronize strategic objectives" instead of "have a meeting"; they know that's crap and they take it as a sign of being a - to use different lingo - total n00b.

There are actually academic studies of professors that show that professors are not, in fact, snowed by random lingo - and that in grading papers and reviewing presentations if a person is spouting BS lingo in the professors area of knowledge they will judge them far more harshly than simpler (and equally wrong) wording. It's just a matter of skills and experience in the field - some people do actually know what they are doing.

And with business analysts, some actually do know what they are doing and choose their words carefully. All of the 'real' jargon has actual meaning, and each word often has a long and specific history that causes it to be the best word for the task at hand. "Developing and implementing strategic objectives to maximize balanced scorecard results for all stakeholders" may sound like nonsense, but the words do have very specific meanings, and a person with experience in the field can immediately tell if you are using any of them incorrectly or are trying to blow smoke at them.

Amongst those who know what they are doing, many business analysts have training in not just business, but psychology, philosophy, communications, linguistics, and some of the more traveled speak multiple languages as well. So to speak with them, I suggest taking a page from their playbook - "ask".

In training a business analyst, much of the work is about asking questions. It is their job to ask, ask, ask, and ask again - but to always record the answers and never need to ask the same question twice. They build models, and then they compare them to reality, often in technical areas they don't understand at a low level and so must rely on higher level descriptions and abstractions. This means they understand the value of a good question, and one who is comfortable with you might be happy to explain all you want to know about what a "vision statement" is and why it's important, and why "strategic alignment" is a real thing, and they'd probably be happy to deal with questions about something they actually know a lot about!

If you just want to learn to use words in a weird and kind of useless way, that's both fun and amusing, and no one does it better than Scott Adams! If you want to learn something new and want to learn to "talk the talk" and not make yourself look a freshly minted BS In Business graduate, I'd suggest some introductory text in business management and analysis, or better yet to "do lunch" with some of your company business analysts and find out about what they really do for a living.

The purpose of the gobbledegook is to obfuscate realities. In short, you are working with phonies. The reason they're paid what they're paid is to lie for a living. Very often the reason people make a lot of money is precisely that: they create and live in an 'alternate reality'.

If your instinct is to avoid this kind of language and thinking, see if you can find a group of people (internally or externally) with whom you are more compatible. In the meantime, see if you can figure out what kind of reality these people are trying to hide, if it isn't already patently obvious. Generally the people they're messing with is Wall Street analysts and pension fund investment managers.

  • 2
    While this doesn't answer the OP's question, it is good advice. – Blrfl Oct 3 '13 at 10:54

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