Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Wed Jun 18 13:41:44 UTC 2003

Forwarded from New York Times, June 14, 2003

Holy Change Agent! Consultants Edit Out Jargon

The people blamed for incentivizing companies to repurpose, build
mindshare and utilize change agents have taken aim at their own lingo.
Deloitte Consulting, an arm of the accounting firm Deloitte Touche
Tohmatsu, has developed a free software program, Bullfighter, that
identifies jargon in documents. The goal is to make it easier for
investors to decipher what companies are trying to say, said Chelsea
Hardaway, the Deloitte marketing director who led the team that designed
the software.

"We hope that it is a fun way to make business communications safer for
all of us," Ms. Hardaway said. Upon request, she shifted effortlessly to
the language of consultants to offer an alternative  or, perhaps, actually
the same  explanation: "We envision a center of excellence where our
accelerated change agents can maximize their core competencies."

The software, which works like a spelling checker program to spot
questionable words and phrases in Microsoft Word and PowerPoint documents,
is available on the Deloitte Consulting Web site at

"The fact that a consulting firm comes up with it is somewhat ironic,"
said Tom Rodenhauser, president of Consulting Information Services in
Keene, N.H. After all, he said, consultants often introduce mysterious but
important-sounding business terms that over time have a way of afflicting
the general population.

"The terms are supposed to define what are otherwise very nebulous
concepts," he said. "Value-driven, mission-critical there's a
misconception that consultants are great communicators. They're not. In
some cases, they're the worst."

Ms. Hardaway's team at Deloitte began working on the software after a
consultant in the firm's Dallas office posed a challenge: Instead of just
talking about plain talk, design a tool to help people talk plainly. That
consultant, Paul Keene, will probably be the firm's first "chief
bullfighting officer," Ms. Hardaway said.

"It's sort of a `physician, heal thyself' kind of deal," she said.

The software design was relatively straightforward. Next, the firm held a
contest to build a dictionary of objectionable words and phrases, or
"bullwords." The winner of the contest received a trip to the California
Academy of Tauromaquia otherwise known as bullfighting school.

"We got over 10,000 submissions," Ms. Hardaway said. "Some of the most
hated were `leverage,' `bandwidth,' `touch base,' `incentivize,'
`inoculate,' `bleeding edge,' `robust,' `synergize' and `envisioneer.' "

Deloitte's consultants have used the software to analyze companies'
filings and statements and have found a disturbingly high volume of
bullwords in certain industries, particularly computers, whether companies
involved with software or hardware, Ms. Hardaway said.

But getting rid of these terms may be easier said than done, said Lynn
Nichols, an assistant professor of linguistics at the University of
California at Berkeley. After all, consultants have developed their own
vocabulary in an effort to describe as much as possible in very little
space, she said.

"Now these serve as shortcuts," she said, and consultants will have a hard
time finding other ways to convey these highly specific concepts.

But Chris Formant, head of the financial services consulting practice at
BearingPoint, says experienced consultants do not use such jargon anyway.

"I can see how as a training tool for young, fresh consultants, it might
make a lot of sense," Mr. Formant said of the software. "It would be kind
of surprising to find that kind of gobbledygook and consultingese coming
out of an experienced consultant."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company | Home | Privacy Policy | Search
| Corrections | Help | Back to Top

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list