Monday, August 28, 2006

Corporate Strategy #583 - the Bullshit Bingo

This fairly comprehensive post reminded me of a minor skirmish with the corporate world.

We'd signed on McKinsey & Co. for a study of two sectors in the state. What they would call a major engagement - a team of six Bright Young Things working full-time out of our office for over a year, with a visiting Associate or Headless Honcho or Local Ringmeister or whatever they call it. Even an unsmiling Junior Partner who dropped by once in a while and "set up meetings" all over the place. Barrel-loads of corporate energy. All in all, a pleasant and productive experience working with sharp hard-working young people.

By the end of the first week I'd got used to e-mails and early morning phone calls that "set up team meetings". From my point of view (i.e., "where I was coming from"), this was Weirdissimus Grandoso. They were on the first floor, I was on the third. All they had to do was walk up and talk over a cup of coffee. (And chocolate biscuits. Parle "Hide & Seek". Very nice, except that three of the six were on the Atkins' Diet.) Just another aspect of their "professionalism".

I could not get used to their B-school jargon. For examples, check out Corporate Whore's post.
If they couldn't tell me what they meant in simple English, or Hindi or Bangla, if they had to invent a whole new language for it, the chances were very high that they didn't know what they wanted to say.

I told them so. They smiled in pitying fashion, as who should say, "These Gorment babus, educating them is half our job!"

Week Two. Team meeting set up in my room. I armed myself with strong ammunition. A sheet of paper with a 5x5 grid of large squares.
Explanation - this is the "Bullshit Bingo".* Every time they used one of their B-school catch-phrases - incentivise, leverage, take it out of the loop, closure, apples to apples - I would write it down in one of the squares. Position depended on who used the term; if it was somebody on my right, I filled in a right-hand square and so on.
They were mystified.
Until I explained.
As soon as I had filled five squares in a row in any direction - vertically, horizontally or diagonally - I would say "Bullshit! This meeting's over!"

That was a very brief meeting. It took them a week to manage their bruised egos and come back to me. But it worked. From then on, we spoke plain English.

**** ****

* - Link courtesy Dhoomketu


neha vish said...

ROTFL! Bullshit Bingo? :D

Half of consulting is bullshitting, another quarter is report writing and the fourth quarter is team meetings. The more "famous" the consultancy, the more likely they come with "we have to change the world Baby/ Babu" jingles.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Well, I covered three-quarters in this story, din' I?


dhoomketu said...

Do check out the bullfighter, made by Deloitte, in case you have any documents still lying around.

The only point I disagree with is the Atkins. It's probably a fascination with the excellent non-vegetarian food available in your town, which led to dropping all non-protein food groups. Plus, who eats Hide n Seek when you can have norengurer shondesh?

Nilu said...

Am not sure about management consultants.

But I expect people to know the basics when the consult is technical -- else they shouldn't be there. It's not my job to teach Fourier Transform to morons who think they don't need math. Either agree with my conclusion or go back to school.

Falstaff said...

Ah, the good old days.

Disagree about the team meetings - scheduling time, even if you're in the same office, is a good idea. All this 'walk up and talk over a cup of coffee' stuff never works - even if you manage to get time with the client, and get his undivided attention (which happens almost never), no one ever takes these casual coffee conversations seriously. Hell, most people don't even take team meetings seriously, but at least if you've managed to get an hour of the client's time set aside you have a fighting chance.

Agree about the random jargon, of course. Socialisation is a terrible thing. Though really good consultants recognise that all this stuff is just about being part of the tribe, and actively try not to inflict it on their clients. Only really bad consultants think using this stuff will actually impress anyone. Knowing some of the people who worked on the WB government study, I'd have to say you got a bit of a bad draw.

km said...

I feel your pain, brother. As a member of the IT consulting fraternity, I know exactly what you mean.

"Incentivize", "Pressured", "value-add", "touch base" etc have GOT to go. And I mean in our lifetime.

Tabula Rasa said...

touche. that was some neutering job.

almost as bad as putting a bug in the powerpoint.

ichatteralot said...

Atta Boy! Way to go! I hate the Mc Kinsey guys myself!

thalassa_mikra said...

Honestly, who talks like that? Consultants? Hmm...haven't met too many of them, but I've interviewed a lot of VPs and CEOs with decades of experience for my research.

It is always a fascinating conversation, and a delight to see how keen and lucid their perception of their industry, its challenges and opportunities are. Nary a jargonistic word to be found.

By the way, is it just me, or others find it shocking as well that kids with not an iota of business experience are expected to move in and fix things simply because they got hired by a fancy consulting firm straight out of university?

Inkblot said...

nice work-the grid I mean- can we have a photo of your ego now?

Sue said...

Nice work on the bingo. would have loved to be there.

but bingo, hingo whatever, everyone just keeps hiring consulting firms. 80 years since they started, McKinsey is still going strong. Makes me wonder who are the bigger fools..:)

Gamesmaster G9 said...

You are my hero forever.

Shankari said...

JAP :)

And, sue:

There is a pattern in the hiring of these consultant types bcuz they are so true to a type.

Smoooooth. Chikna- if y'know what I mean! :p

Mr. D said...

Hahahahahahah.. YOU DA MAN.

- B School alumnus.

Gautam Ghosh said...

and here I am going to become a consultant myself

bhogoban amake bhalo rekho !

NILU said...

Am a moron to diss you in my post.Sorry.

Smith said...

wow....i read about Bullshit Bingo a long time back but i never realised anyone would ever actually use it! well done sir!

i spent a bit of time in consulting...not management consulting, but tax consulting, and it's the very bull-shitting nature of the job that made me quit (although the organisation was wonderful and the people were excellent and all that)!

the amazing bit is that people believe that the bullshit is necessary or else the client won't be happy enough!

Sue said...

Oooh, I wish you could meet the people in my last office. Seven of us newbies joined more or less together and were lost within minutes within all the jargon.

Then we discovered the old-timers didn't use it either (only the bosses do) and settled down quite happily after all.

Anti-establishment Inc said...

At least, you did not get to meet the army of "the corporate ubermensch". Supermen, who begin their day with a "Howz you?" and end their day with "Any issues?".

Brilliant post!!

angry fix said...

A colleague once sent me this message:
"focus on closing this by 4:45-50. the admi guys are here and i need to get some serious fixes done at the accomodation (name of the firm) has provided us."

He later translated that for me: he had to take some plumbing done at accomodation provided to him!

Plumpernickel said...

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panu said...

ah, that angry dismissal.

So very very angry-notsoyoung-mannish.

Territorial Male said...

BS! You win.

the thing inside me said...

I think it's Britannia's Hide and Seek.

Quite sure, too.