My Top 40 Favorite Corporate Buzzwords

There are so many great, fun buzzwords, it’s hard to pick my top 40. I’m interested in corporate nonsense, the character in my next book, February Moon, will be too. He’s an “I’ve seen it all” kind of guy, who isn’t impressed with EYMs any longer (Earnest Young Men. You know the type, the twenty somethings who regularly congratulate others on what a “good job” they did doing whatever it is they do.)

Our hero may have been an EYM in the past but he certainly isn’t any longer, having age and experience in his background. And in fact, he and his likewise jaded friend coin their own phrase to see how it takes off and a funny meeting ensues as they discuss “storming the glass castle”, which is met with blank stares by the other meeting-goers who know they should know what storming the glass castle means, but don’t.

Here’s my Top 40 and their definitions (according to me):

1. At the end of the day – The realization that one can plan and plot, figure and reconfigure, all day long, but nothing will change.

2. Bandwidth – As in, do we have enough bandwidth to accomplish this? Or, how many people can we force to work overtime to get it done?

3. Bio break – Visiting the restroom.

4. Blue sky thinking – (See thinking “outside the box”.) The person who comes up with the most bizarre solution wins.

5. Bobbleheading – Mass nods, agreement with the boss, even though he may have his head up somewhere dark.

6. Challenges – Things we suck at.

7. Change management – Forcing objectionable ideas down the throats of customers / employees without them noticing.

8. Come up with an action plan – A “to do” list, but action plan sounds a lot more businesslike and so much cooler.

9. Customer-centric – The pretense that everything we do is with the customer in mind, usually said to the customer.

10. Deliverables – Things that need to get done and stuff that needs to happen, which may or may not, get done or happen.

11. Drink the Kool-Aid – Hold your nose and suck it up until you can collect early Social Security.

12. Empowering our employees – Getting them to work on the weekend.

13. Goal-oriented – Being committed to a future event or future competence, as in “my goal is to end world hunger” or “my goal is to win the lottery” or “my goal is to make it to the weekend”.

14. Going forward – The act of putting bad news behind you so that no one talks about it anymore. Politicians like to use this phrase after they’ve been seen shirtless on YouTube and corporations like BP use it so people will stop talking about how they have totally screwed up our environment and instead start talking about how the price of their stock has rebounded.

15. It’s a new headwind for us – We suck at this.

16. Knowledge transfer – What you do when someone in India is taking your job.

17. Lessons learned – All the stuff that went horribly wrong, and how to keep it from happening again, which of course you can’t because next time it will be new stuff that goes horribly wrong.

18. Leveraging – Stealing someone else’s ideas or expertise, usually without his or her knowledge and in the unlikely event that it is with his or her knowledge, is documented in the form of an email to that person alone where you acknowledge the leveraging but don’t copy anyone else. You rely on the person’s unwillingness to forward the email at the risk of drawing attention to himself and not appearing to be a “team player”.

19. Low-hanging fruit – Stuff that is really easy to do, which has a lot of eye appeal – usually things like papers flying into folders, spinning icons, and mouseovers with a hint of humor.

20. Managing expectations – Being very careful to point out what the project won’t do, so, by contrast, what it will do, will seem awesome and like, totally amazing.

21. Moving the goal posts – Changing the rules midstream as soon as you know that the project is doomed to failure. See “Managing Expectations”.

22. Multi-tasking – Able to walk and chew gum, simultaneously, or able to debug a Java class while listening to Foo Fighters.

23. Next steps – What you propose when your one-hour meeting is up and nothing has been decided.

24. Offline – As in “let’s take that offline”, which means, shut up and I’ll call you later. Only I won’t.

25. On the same page – Oh, groan. Does anyone still say this? It was cute the first time someone thought it up, but now saying it risks corporate shunning. It means having the same tired, slanted, prejudicial corporate mindset as everyone else.

26. Open door policy – The pretense that someone, usually a manager, will actually listen to someone who reports to him. It sounds good in an email, but is a dangerous activity to actually attempt.

27. Think outside the box – Having an original idea, as if anyone could in corporate America. Figuring out new ways to do something, which accomplishes the same old results. This one too, is pretty tired and worn out, so use it with caution.

28. Outsourcing – Elimination of the American middle class.

29. Ownership – Shifting responsibility to someone else so you don’t have to be bothered with supporting it, as, “I’m giving you ownership of our bankrupt client backlist”.

30. Paradigm shift – A new way of thinking about an old, tired subject. Commonly used by dumb people who want to sound smart (note the silent “g”).

31. Proactive – The main ingredient in buzzword soup. A high-scoring word that no resume or project proposal is complete without, at least once in every paragraph. The opposite of reactive, which is bad. Basically, it means, after the meeting, I will get my email out first because I type faster than you, thus, making me “proactive”.

32. Repurposing – The after-the-fact redefinition of the goal of a process or project to comply with what has already been developed, not necessarily what anyone actually wanted.

33. Seamless – The act of incorporating change that is invisible to the naked eye, unnoticeable, a “seamless” transition, until 2:00 AM when all hell breaks loose.

34. Skills transfer – (See outsourcing, above.) When what you do well is given to someone else to do, and you are given things to do that you do, not well.

35. Singing from the same songsheet – Being able to mindlessly reiterate all corporate buzzwords and bs, as if you had thought of it yourself.

36. Ten-thousand foot view – The big picture, i.e., having a lot of grand ideas with no clue as to how to get any of them to work.

37. Touch base – Sending a CYA email to someone to let them know that you haven’t yet done anything, and, in fact, have no intention of doing anything, about a problem to which there is no solution.

38. Transitioning – (See outsourcing, above.) The opposite of a promotion, a lateral move, which is on a gradual, slight decline, usually resulting in the elimination of bonuses or salary increases. As in, “I’m transitioning from Corporate to the Mayville branch.”

39. Win-win – Management wins, customers and employees lose.

40. Wish-list – A well-organized spreadsheet of nice-to-have items, usually prepared by clients, that would increase productivity and improve accuracy, and which they have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever getting.

It is important to note, that “buzzword” is in itself a buzzword, making it iterative and circular. And totally confusing.

Please comment with your favorite buzzword!

On RSS Feeds and Email Hackers

One of the things I wanted to discover about the blogging process was: How to set up an RSS feed from my blog to my website. The blog has a link to the website, but I also wanted to have my blog headlines available on the website, in the event a reader happened to that location first.

An RSS feed will make whatever is available on my blog site also available on my website, immediately, as soon as I post something. It’s another way of making it easy for readers. If someone is at all interested in your content, it should be a rewarding experience, easy to go from one place to another. I don’t know about you, but whenever someone is trying to interest me, and I find the site confusing, or unfriendly, it’s a deal-breaker.

I didn’t know much about RSS, and was prepared for a struggle. Sometimes the things you think will be difficult, aren’t. That’s always refreshing. I started with the software I use to build my website. It is hosted by Yahoo and I used their Yahoo Sitebuilder. Sure enough, there was a how-to about it.

RSS, which stands for Really Simple Syndication, (no, really, it does) distributes your blog headlines and as much content as you want, and presents it in a list. A reader interested in that content can then click the link and go directly to the blog post.

The first step is to identify the feed source. I use WordPress to host my blog, so I then went to WordPress.com to find out about that and it’s the URL of the blog with “/feed/” appended to it. http://www.nameofyourblog.com/feed/.

The second step is to convert the feed. This means finding a site that will create a snippet of JavaScript that you can insert directly into your website HTML. This might sound high tech, but it isn’t really. There were three options: Feedroll, RSS to JavaScript and RSS-Info.com. I chose the second, because I am familiar with JavaScript. It asked for my feed source file name from above, and then I could configure my feed however I wanted. How many items in the list, how many characters of text in each item, things like that. I took the defaults except I chose to display only ten items, and only the first 300 characters of each item. I inserted the name of my feed file and clicked the Generate JavaScript button, which is at the bottom of this screen (not shown).

It created the following JavaScript:

This looks like gobbledygook if you aren’t familiar with HTML but all it did was insert the name of my file, and the options I chose along with the defaults already there, into tags which the browser understands.

It worked the first time. Here is my new page:


That’s the good news about my week.

The bad news is, I had one of my email accounts hacked.

Sometimes, I do things that aren’t smart and I don’t know why I continue to do things that aren’t smart. I allowed my account to be hacked, because I had an email from a person I trusted, but the email wasn’t really from that person. So now people on my contact list are receiving emails that look like they came from me, but didn’t.

When I realized I had been compromised, I quick changed my password. But it is possible that the Bad Ass Spammers (BAS) already had my contact list and had stored those addresses. I don’t know for sure, and it seems as if that was the case because at least two emails went out after I had changed my password.

I have googled this problem until my eyes hurt, but have not really found a solution.

This is an embarrassing thing to have happen to me, because I am in a line of work where I am supposed to know about this stuff, enough at least that I don’t fall prey to BAS.

I ran a full virus scan. I doubt that will do anything, because the emails were sent at a time when my laptop was not turned on. But just in case, what can it hurt? And besides I learned some other good stuff when I did that. Like how to turn off startup programs so the machine boots up faster. That was a nice extra benefit.

I changed my password again. I had previously changed it to one I had used before, so just in case, I changed it to one I had never used. This, too, might not do anything, but can’t hurt.

Third, I deleted everyone in my contact list, except for myself, at another email address, and one from a friend of mine who I knew was no longer using that address and from whom I would get a Mail Delivery error. Then I will know if they are accessing my contact list real time, or using a stored one. This won’t work if they have already stored the addresses, and in fact, if I were a BAS, I guess that’s what I’d do.

Fourth, if none of this works, I am going to call Yahoo, since that’s where the email account is and see if there is anything they can tell me.

I may end up deactivating these accounts, and that may not even work.

The people who do this are ruthless, and cruel, and – what’s the point? We all know what kinds of people they are, they can make more money by being dishonest than they can by any legitimate means. The Bernie Madoffs of the computer industry.

I don’t excuse myself for being sucked in. I just wish it wasn’t necessary to be quite so vigilant.

Anne Tyler Did Not Give Up

Today I’m writing about one of my favorite authors, Anne Tyler. Ms. Tyler is, in my opinion, a Master of Quirk. Quirky characters, quirky families, quirky situations. I picked up If Morning Ever Comes, several times at the library and always returned it to the shelf. But I finally decided to try it, even though I thought the title seemed unlike her others, it almost sounded romance-y. If Morning Ever Comes. Bah.

It wasn’t like her other novels at all. I couldn’t keep the sisters straight at the beginning, and was no better off at the end. The “feisty” grandmother didn’t connect with me, the mother was aloof and a mystery and not clearly developed and the main character was boring. He might be the most boring guy who ever lived, and his dialogue was less than stellar. He says “Well” a lot. Nothing more. Just, well.

The most minute details are discussed, even the location of where one of the sisters left her napkin. I’m guessing it was a cloth napkin, and, mystery solved, she left it on the porch. As if anyone would care about that. It wasn’t a long book, I’m guessing under 100,000 words, and most of it was devoted to describing boring and trivial events.

I could scarcely read the main guy’s name, Ben Joe, without cringing (wasn’t one of the Walton sons named Ben Joe? No I guess that was Jim Bob.) Apparently, Ben Joe figured that the household couldn’t function properly without him and so, when his oldest sister, who was married and lived in some Midwestern state, Iowa maybe, with a daughter, left her husband and returned to the old family homestead, he decided, being the only male member, he needed to make the trip back home from college to attend to things.

He shows up, and things get more trivial from there, details about who sits where, and these descriptions lack imagination. And forget about Show Don’t Tell. I finished the book because I wanted to blog about it, and for no other reason. I went on Amazon and looked at reviews of this book, and found that other people disliked it as much as I did. I read comments like, “I really love Anne Tyler, but this book was not like her usual, it was just boring.”

And then I discovered that it was her first book, written in 1964 and Ms. Tyler later disavowed it, saying she didn’t understand how it got published in the first place. Maybe some editor saw something in her prose, some glimmer of great things to come. And maybe the fact that she sold the first one, gave Ms. Tyler the enthusiasm to go forward, write more stories, which got better and better, as time went on.

So the moral of the blog is… Authors, Don’t Give Up.

Keep on writing. Sure maybe the first one isn’t going to make anyone’s best seller list, and maybe looking back on first attempts, you might think, I kinda wish now I hadn’t put that out there. But the skill of writing is a learned one, just as everything else. Of course, it helps to have a bit of talent, and a sense of humor, and maybe a few ideas that no one has thought of, but no one can put a string of words together in quite the same way you can.

Everyone has different histories, different environments, different families and friends and events that happen to them. All of that goes into writing too, as one of my friends put it, and I’m not quoting directly, but words to the effect that “An author’s fiction is his own unique perspective on life.”

So, get discouraged if you must, but don’t give up.

I’m not going to.

On Retirement, Outsourcing, Spring Break, Bikinis and Tattoos

I am a day late. I sit here with a blank screen before me and wonder where it will take me. I have some things in the works, but they aren’t ready to talk about, things I’d like to share, about what I’ve learned about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and how to format for eBooks. I’ve already done the Kindle thing, but there are other eBook readers out there, and they all want different formats. That’s coming soon.

I am spending a week in Florida, my “last” vacation. I say it’s my last because from now on, my life will be permanent vacation. This is the last time I have to ask for a week off, because after May 27th I will no longer be working my day job. I am not seeking other employment at this time, (so I guess it’s called “retirement”) but it doesn’t mean I won’t in the future, if I can find the right situation. I will probably not ever be found inside a cubicle again. If I do find a situation, it will be something I can do from anywhere. Something where I can pack up my laptop and my brand new Verizon 4G ITE portable network. What a great little thing it is, about as big as a credit card, and about ¼ inch thick. It’s fast, and convenient, and may release me from my dependence on Time Warner.

Aren’t you afraid you’ll get bored? A question I am asked by many. Bored? I haven’t been bored since I was ten years old, shut inside in bad weather. I’d tell my mother I was bored, I didn’t have anything to do, and she’d respond with the exact same threat every time I did. “Find something to do, or I’ll give you something to do.” I wonder why I kept telling her that, since she wasn’t going to be much help. Back then, parents didn’t care much if you were bored, they expected you to figure it out for yourself.

The first thing I’ll do with my spare time is take a family vacation. We’ll stay on Lake Ontario for a week or so, and visit with my father. My daughters will be there and I’ll probably see some old friends too. After that there’s another reunion scheduled, and after that another trip to Florida. Then I’ll reorganize my house, cupboards and closets, and cook more, and grow my own basil so I can make pesto.

I’ll read more, write more, watch more old movies, exercise more, learn more. I can’t imagine being bored. I’ll take more pictures, and learn the GIMP software package.

When the only thing about the job you will miss is the money, it’s time to retire. I don’t want this to turn into a rant, so will try to keep my comments civil. It’s enough to say that I found something I was good at, something I did that added value, and it was decided for me that the thing I was good at could be done more cheaply by someone in India. They decided, what I was good at was being a paper pusher.

I will say that it doesn’t take a genius to know that eventually the world economy will be such that people who do what I used to do, will all be paid equally. By that time it will be too late, all the talent will be over there, not here. And in the meantime, it’s so-o much cheaper in India. Well, it’s not quite as cheap as it used to be (see where that’s going?) but still, it’s better than paying us American workers to do what they can do for half as much. And for each manager who is considering his options, his bonus becomes the deciding factor. Save the company money now, today? More money in his bonus.

To change the subject, yesterday we visited an outside bar, Shephard’s, here on Clearwater Beach. It was a perfect day to walk down there and take in the scenery. This place is The Happenin’ Spring Break Hotel and Bar. It has been here as long as I can remember, and I referred to it in Whatever Happened to Lily? Jay went there during Spring Break to people-watch and ended up running into someone he’d interviewed with years ago, who offered him a job.

Spring Break has probably peaked but it’s still crowded here at the beach. Throngs of people, old people, young people, and families with kids in strollers. It becomes a necessity to plan when you will leave the beach and when you will come back, because of the traffic.

There is a restaurant, an indoor bar, and a night club at Shephard’s Hotel, in addition to a huge beachfront tiki bar on the water. There’s music all day long, live music at night. It’s all situated on one big deck, with three or four bars, and mini-bars where larger groups can gather, as well as tables, and places to stand. There is a beer station every twenty feet or so. The bartenders serve up fancy island drinks in plastic cups, without measuring anything, pouring liquor with one hand and adding mixers with the other. They give away free shots, and sponser beer drinking games and bikini contests. They encourage the breakers to get loaded, because they want that reputation, of being the Best, the Most Fun place on the beach.

I like to go there to watch people. They don’t care if you watch them, most of the younger set will ignore you if you are over forty anyway. They like showing off, if they can shock you, or disgust you, so much the better.

Here is what I saw yesterday.

I saw people of all ages. It’s not just the younger set that goes, although they are in the majority. I saw two girls up on a high stage, dancing in bikinis to the canned dance hip hop that plays until the live music starts. The dancing was, uh, suggestive. Jane Austen would not approve.

There were women in bikinis who should not have been. Enough said.

There was a group of older women (even older than me), who were “booth dancing” which was amusing, to watch seventy-somethings getting into the hip hop, with shoulder bumps and wild hand motions.

There was the inevitable white-haired guy next to me, trying to put the moves on a cute bartender.

There were hundreds of young girls in skimpy clothes. Because the weather was perfect, the little teenie weenies were all donned. No cover-ups required. The men wore, for the most part, long baggy cottony short type things. I guess Speedos are out. It becomes the norm for girls to wear less, while the guys wear more.

I saw a lot of tattoos, and mostly they were of the blue-ink variety. I wonder why they don’t at least pick a more colorful way to deface their bodies? Those blue tattoos are just ugly, I really don’t get it. I am not a fan of tattoos. I’ve never been able to figure out why people think they look good.

I don’t understand the younger set anymore. It becomes clearer and clearer to me, why I write the kind of books I do. I want things to be the way they were, not the way they are. I’ve turned into what I said I wouldn’t turn into.

I don’t care. Tattoos are still nasty.