Mark Washburn

Guide to navigating corporate blah-blah

High in corporate towers, another language is spoken to explain business concepts.
High in corporate towers, another language is spoken to explain business concepts. Staff Photographer

OK, kids. As you approach graduation from business school, there’s one thing they didn’t teach you: how to decipher a memo.

Today, we will translate the common shorthand in modern business communications.

“Tough decisions:” Layoffs.

“Workforce optimization:” Layoffs.

“Restructuring initiative:” Absolute bloodbath.

“Employees who are affected:” Those fired.

“Realignment of organizational structure:” Executives are safe.

“Enhanced governance process:” We’re actually adding executives and meetings for them to attend.

“Operational nodes:” Various departments.

“Realignment of resources:” We found a company in India that will do all the technical work for half of what we’re paying now.

“Enhanced confidence and operating efficiency in our contractual partners:” We found a company in the Philippines that assures us it’s not as incompetent as that company in India. And, best of all, they’re even cheaper.

“Future is bright:” Because of all the layoffs, we might make our numbers for the next quarter.

“Reinvention:” Catastrophe.

“Real traction nearer term than expected:” Maybe next year we’ll see a small profit.

“Three key takeaways:” All you really needed to know that was said during that 90-minute presentation.

“Evaluating strategic investment in new product development:” We’re whacking research and development.

“Leveraging our strong brand identity:” We’re whacking marketing.

“Challenging and volatile operating environment for our industry:” Our competitors are murdering us.

“Renewed confidence that our key brand initiatives will drive positive results:” Magical thinking.

“In real time:” The dimension you live in.

“Regionalization of functions allows us to utilize and leverage collective skills and knowledge:” Somebody in Fort Wayne will now be ignoring your calls to the Help Desk that used to be down the hall.

“Optimizing organic growth synergies:” Some idiot oil minister in Nigeria wants to park $10 million in our account for a week!

“Experiencing strong headwinds in certain brand sectors:” No one is buying our stuff. They’re buying our competitors’ stuff.

“Divesting non-core assets:” Dumping that wretched, over-priced stuff we acquired last year that somebody thought would make us money.

“We are standardizing the initial approach conversation with potential clients:” We are stomping out every bit of employee creativity we can detect.

“We continue to evaluate opportunities to strengthen our balance sheet as we position our company for long-term growth:” Has anybody got any ideas?

“Outlook for the year will remain challenging:” Look for another job.