40 years lost on useless reforms
PNG: Reform must be pitched at community level

A probably useless glossary of Consultish


NOOSA – The eminently sensible article by Stephen Charteris, replete with sly hat tips to consultants, took me back.

It took me back to those periods of my career when I was a consultant – and there were many such periods often for big chunks of a long career.

So it is from that shallow basis that I offer you this glossary of some of the jargon used by consultants and those of their ilk (that is, people who behave like consultants).

Actionable – ready to be actioned. “It’s not actionable right now because the consultant’s on leave and she didn’t really explain what she was doing.”

Bandwidth – capacity. “If we hire an extra consultant we’ll have the bandwidth to deliver with minimal months delay.”

Benchmark – a standard or measurement. “That didn’t work so let’s have a special PNG benchmark.”

Best practice – a superior method. “I know you’ve been doing it like this for years but it’s not best practice.”

Bird’s eye view - high-level view. “I don’t understand the problem, from Canberra it doesn’t look so hard.”

Blank slide – no actual information. “We’re starting with a blank side, so what does the client think we ought to do?”

Boil the ocean – go to extreme lengths. “We’ll have to boil the ocean or get some new bandwidth to finish this on time.”

Broad brush – lacking detail. “We’re not really on top of it yet so we’ll give the client a broad brush and hope that’s enough.”

Buy-in - stakeholder consent. “If we don’t get buy-in from Canberra we’re pretty much rooted.”

Circle back – follow up. “Not getting far with this so we’ll circle back later when we’ve had a couple of beers.”

Core competencies – things we’re good at. “Don’t worry, it’s a core competency and worked well in Afghanistan.”

Covid – excuse. “The strategy would be completed now if it wasn’t for Covid.

Deep dive - thorough analysis. “Let’s bring up Debbie from South to do a deep dive on this.”

Deliverables – outcomes. Pre-project: solutions. Post-project: more problems.

Drill down – get more details. “We need more funds to extend the planning period so we can drill down further on this one.”

Elevator test - ability to explain concepts quickly. “Harry failed the elevator test, he was there for two hours and the client still didn’t understand.”

Granular - smallest elements of an issue. “We’d take it to the granular level but nobody would understand it.”

Greenfield - new opportunity. “While you’re working on this one look out for a greenfield we can pitch.”

Guesstimate – guess. “Don’t have exact numbers so I’ll give you a guesstimate but don’t hold me to it.”

Learning curve – rate of learning. “Hector’s main drawback as a consultant is he never gets higher up the learning curve than the client.”

Offline – outside the meeting. “I don’t want anyone else to know this so let’s talk offline.”

Out of the box - something creative. “Client’s not too happy so we need something out of the box.”

Low-hanging fruit – quick wins. “Let’s show the new client how good we are by dealing with the low hanging fruit first.”

Paradigm shift – changing the framework. “We don’t have the bandwidth and it’s not a core competency so let’s go for a paradigm shift.”

Pitch – proposal for business. “We’ll let the top team from Sydney pitch and send up the guys from Brisbane to deliver.”

Porpoise - go into detail but come back up for clarity. “Another couple of porpoises and I think we’ll get on top of this.”

Rebrand – name change. “We haven’t managed to get anywhere on this, the client’s reputation is rubbish so let’s do a rebrand.”

Rockstar - high achiever. “Myrtle’s a rockstar, Canberra will move her out of here soon.”

Rubber hitting road – reality strikes. “Well it all looked good till the rubber hit the road.”

Synthesis – blend information to make it understandable. “Looks like a mess now but we’ll bring Bert up from Brisbane to do a synthesis.”

Value add - add value to a product or process. “That new design didn’t work so let’s value add the old one by changing the colour.”

Write a deck- prepare slides for presentation. “You can write a deck so it looks like we’re making progress.”

Source: Adapted and augmented from ‘The graduate’s ultimate glossary for consulting interviews’


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William Dunlop

Ah now Bernard, Much said about noubt.

Arthur Williams

'Take possession of ....'

'Stakeholders' or should that be 'Steak Holders' as found in Vegan handbooks.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Another interesting thing to do when you are bored Jim is to conduct a conversation in cliches.

The loser is the first one to run out of cliches.

Sometimes you can keep it going for twenty minutes or more.

Boris James

I simply kicked Keith's words into the long grass.

Jim Moore

One day, bored silly in my last employment, I started a competition to see who could string the most weasel words into a paragraph.

The winner came up with a string of words, every last phrase of which would have qualified for Watson's book, plus a few that didn't make it.

The intriguing thing was, that when read aloud, the whole thing appeared to make some sort of sense, even though it was complete gibberish, when read with some understanding of what it was. I'm sorry I didn't keep it for posterity.

Chris Overland

While Keith has plainly made an original contribution to our understanding of the consultant's lexicon, we should acknowledge Don Watson's pioneering work in this area.

In his book 'Weasel Words' Watson demonstrated how perfectly innocent words could be recruited to serve dark purposes and, ultimately, through time and repeated misuse be rendered into mere husks of words, devoid of any real substance or meaning.

Many, perhaps most, of the words appearing in Keith's list seem to have suffered this fate.

Of course, politicians specialise in using many words to say nothing of substance or to obscure rather than to enlighten, so the words and terms noted by Keith are ideal for their purposes too.

To my shame, I am guilty of using some of these words too.

Stephen Charteris

Hilarious, love it....

One piece of jargon I particularly like is, "Fellas, ladies, we are off in the weeds" [the discussion has moved off topic].

Then of course there was the bingo sheet set up as a board game full of buzzwords.

Presenters were amazed at how attentive were the young turks sitting down the back until one yelled 'Bingo!' and the rest applauded a presenter's new record of 10 buzzwords ticked off so early into the presentation.

Bernard Corden

This glossary sounds remarkably similar to Simon Birmingham's maiden speech.

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