WSJ: A Guide to the Latest Batch of Corporate Buzzwords

Lane laneonline at
Mon Nov 6 03:42:10 UTC 2006

A Guide to the Latest Batch of Corporate Buzzwords
The Wall Street Journal Online 
By Carol Hymowitz 

Don't even talk about "rightsizing," "digitization"
and the "war for talent." The new business buzzwords
are "delayering," "Web 2.0" and "knowledge

A new crop of buzzwords usually sprouts every three to
five years, or about the same length of time many top
executives have to prove themselves. Some can be
useful in swiftly communicating, and spreading, new
business concepts. Others are less useful, even
devious. "Too often people use buzzwords to muddy or
cover up what they're actually saying," says Warren
Bennis, management professor at the University of
Southern California in Los Angeles. 

It would be wise, then, if executives who want to be
believed and understood, carefully select their

Delayering, for example, may evoke an image of a cake,
but there is nothing sweet about it. In plain English,
it means managers are being fired. It's the latest
manifestation of rightsizing and downsizing. 

Knowledge acquisition is the opposite of delayering,
but different from the now passé "war for talent." It
has been awhile since executives have had to do battle
to find job candidates. These days, companies need to
know how to sift through an onslaught of applications
to hire the person with the kinds of knowledge that
will best help the company stay competitive. Hence the
notion of knowledge acquisition and its corollary,
"skills development," which refers to efforts to use
the employees already available, but to teach them new

Another current buzzword, "unsiloing," mangles the
noun silo to make an important but simple point:
Managers must cooperate across departments and
functions, share resources and cross-sell products to
boost the bottom line. 

This buzzword is likely to appeal most to new chief
executive officers, says David D'Alessandro, former
CEO of John Hancock Financial Services, now a unit of
Manulife Financial. "Suddenly they're in charge and
they want everyone to play together nicely in the
sandbox," he says. That's never the case when
executives are on their way up and fighting colleagues
to get promotions. The need for wide cooperation is
"an old problem with a new imperative in today's
competitive global economy," Mr. D'Alessandro adds,
"especially for older companies with entrenched organizations."

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