Fun with Business Buzzwords and Corporate Cliches

“Who moved my cheese beyond the tipping point and out of the square?”  Did they do so using industry best practices?  Did it go from good to great?

“Who moved my cheese beyond the tipping point and out of the square?” 


Did they do so using industry best practices?  Did it go from good to great?

Before I started working with executive leaders, I worked with teenagers for 15 years. There is one amusing commonality that I find in both groups – Fads!  Just like the teenagers that we thought we outgrew, business professionals love to impress their colleagues with the latest catch-phrases and concepts from the latest business books. 

Here are my favourite corporate clichés and business buzzwords that have lost their meaning:

  • Best Practice – The more cynical among us would define “best practice” as whatever concept the consultant is trying to sell you at the time.  However, the savvy business leader would ask “How do you define best practice?” “According to whom?”  “How does this relate to my business?”  You will be hard pressed to find a bigger proponent of innovative and effective than I am; however, if you cannot apply the best practice to your specific needs, then it may not be “best practice” for you.
  • Think out box – If we all thought outside of the box as many times as we were encouraged to do so, we would probably be teleporting to work by now.  Unfortunately, people are prone to get back into the box when the thinking is over.  
  • Solutions – Isn’t it amazing how many things that used to be “services” are now “solutions”?  I drove by a petrol station and saw a tanker truck filling the underground tanks.  Emblazoned on the side of the tanker was the company name Joe Blogs Tanker Solutions.  Wow, I did not know that there was a tanker truck problem!  What is the difference between service and solutions?….about 20%.
  • “Right-sizing” – Because downsizing and restructuring is a depressing thought, we call it “right-sizing”.  Well… to me the “right size” is the one where the other guy is redundant, and not me!
  •  “Honest” and “Hard-working” – These words do not add any value to CVs, but yet, people continue to list them (or variations on the theme) as their key attributes.  Well, all people would claim they are honest because if you are honest, then you would be telling the truth and a deceitful person would claim to be honest because they are, by definition….dishonest!
    Honest and hard-working are understood as a prerequisite for any employment, what manager wants to hire someone deceitful and lazy?
  • Paradigm shift – Well, I am changing my views on that…

Now I am not one to question human nature or the fun to be had being counted among the “in crowd”, but when executives follow the fads with the same forethought applied by adolescents, the results are similar. It is the savvy business leader that looks beyond the latest trends to the substance of the matter, and how they can add value to their organisation.

If there is a corporate cliché that you have grown tired of, send it to me at

 About the author: Chris Pope is the Director of The Valde Group (, a management consultancy that helps clients manage strategic initiatives; develops programme / project management structures and capabilities; and advises executives on how to  “projectize” organisational strategy to achieve operational results.