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It’s a problem so insidious; there are even secret games* one can play to make the tongue-lashing more bearable.

Eyes glaze instantly in strategy meetings throughout the world upon hearing jargon phrases like “… synergise our key learnings to value-add actionable outcomes”, and “…reshape our trade strategy to leverage multi-national national customer base whilst maintaining market access.”

Far from making the speaker seem knowledgeable and inspiring, this type of language can derail a strategic plan before the meeting is even over.

In a nutshell, if a team doesn’t know what to they need to do to exceed – in plain English – it’s unlikely that any business leader will achieve their desired outcome.

Ron Ashkenas and Logan Chandler authored Four Tips for Better Strategic Planning to address this problem.

The pair laments that for many companies, strategy meetings have devolved into amateur theatre, with excessive costumes in the forms of analysis, charts, and presentations. When staff members leave the room, they struggle to translate these lofty and wordy plans into action. As a result, many strategic plans end up in the ‘too hard’ basket, labelled ‘bin’.

In their book, Ashkenas and Chandler four steps to make better use of the hard work that goes into planning a strategy:

1. Insist on experiments to test the assumptions you’ve made.

2. Banish fuzzy language.

3. Escape from template tyranny – it stifles innovation.

4. Ask provocative questions: “A few that we’ve heard include: “What are the top 2 or 3 things that must go right for this strategy to work?” “If we pursue this strategy, what are we deciding not to do?” and “What specific capabilities will we need to develop in order for this plan to succeed?”

The strategic planning process is an unquestionably an integral part of growing a business. The leadership challenge, however, is to make sure that it’s achieving results, and not just a quarterly pantomime.

Leaders who are partial to using buzzwords are quick to point out that some phrases are unavoidable, are business terms, and help to put a point across. The key here is to ensure there is a collective understanding behind their use and there is a need to use them.

*Turn it into a game!

Buzzword bingo (also known as Bullsh*t Bingo) is a bingo-style game where participants prepare bingo cards with buzzwords and tick them off as they are used during meetings or conferences.

The game is generally played in situations where members of the meeting feel the speaker is overusing buzzwords rather than providing information or ideas in plain language. Business meetings led by guest speakers or high up company leaders are often viewed as prime opportunities to play, as the language used by these speakers often includes rampant usage of words which are perfect for buzzword bingo.

An important element of the game is having the courage to actually yell “Bingo!” In order to avoid the reprimands that would likely result from doing so, participants may resort to looking at one another and silently mouthing the word “Bingo”. A variation of the game requires the person who has achieved bingo to raise his or her hand and contextualise the word “Bingo” into a comment or question.

Here is a printable Buzzword Bingo card to liven up your next meeting:



Touch base Blue-sky ideas Let’s take a moment Moving forward
Strategic fit


Actionable Solution Fast track Core competencies




Big picture Result driven End-to-end
Best practice


Churn Key learnings Client focus Brainstorm
Knowledge base


Relationship Leverage Best in class Collaboration
Bottom line


Value-add Take that offline Relationship Mindset
Innovate Client focus Think outside the box Churn Do lunch
Fly it up the flag pole Result driven Take that on board Touch base Robust
Fast track Let’s take a moment External forces Mission-critical No-brainer


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Stephanie Zillman

Stephanie Zillman

Stephanie is the editor-at-large of Dynamic Business. Stephanie brings with her a passion for journalism, business, and new ideas. On her days off, you might find her reading a book on the beach.

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