You’d be forgiven if you thought the following paragraph (actually, one world-class run-on sentence) made sense or expressed anything of (decipherable) substance or meaning:
“It’s the mission of the organization to actualize strategic partnerships for the purposes of employing relevant business metrics and engineering B2B and B2C ROI by implementing extensible paradigms that scale across platform-agnostic services to enable ubiquitously available systems, thereby achieving the objective of maximizing best-of-breed architectures and optimizing customer-centric distribution channels.”
If you thought that sentence contained any substance or expressed any decipherable meaning, you’d be wrong. But you’d be forgiven nevertheless because it contains the kind of vague jargon we’ve come to expect — and to accept — not just in insurance consulting but in all contemporary business communication. And it constitutes a challenge and an opportunity.
Let’s take just one term — transformation — and just four of its popular permutations — digital transformation, organizational transformation, operational transformation, and financial transformation. Now let’s ask ourselves what those phrases mean. Chances are we don’t know. At the very least, we can’t be sure. It’s likely that, if we asked people what they mean, the number of definitions we got would equal the number of people we asked. It gets worse.
That challenge of definition has two corollary challenges: communication and expectation. We can’t communicate what we can’t define. If we can’t define precisely or communicate explicitly, we can’t manage the shared expectations of our target constituents. And if we can’t manage our shared expectations, whatever we do for you is likely to conclude unsatisfactorily.
With phrases like the ones above (and others) all the rage, setting and sharing reasonable expectations is an art. It’s also an absolute necessity. And the way to establish and share reasonable expectations is to replace jargon, however popular it might be, with plain language. Here are four modest examples:
- Digital enablement is further broken down to become
- storing information via scanning and OCR applications (digitization in jargon)
- employing digital technologies and information to make business processes and operations more efficient (digitalization in jargon)
- advancing organizational proficiency via broad implementation of modern technologies and processes (digital transformation and innovation in jargon)
- Organizational transformation becomes examining departmental and reporting structures to improve outcomes.
- Operational transformation becomes re-engineering processes to improve efficiency and minimize waste.
- Financial transformation becomes streamlining transactional and auditing processes to improve accuracy and to ensure transparency.
It may take a little practice. And all of us may have to resist the seduction of jargon. (It’s easier to say what everyone else is saying than it is to be specific.) But we’ll know from the outcomes we achieve and by satisfying and exceeding our shared expectations that we’ve mastered the art.
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Deepak Ravindar is a senior consultant at Xceedance.