Subtext City

If you don't pay attention, you might not notice them. I'm referring to the throwaway terms that management teams, analysts and investment bankers use in lieu of hard facts and real data to describe corporate strategy, outcomes and financials. You're probably so used to hearing them that you've almost convinced yourself that they mean something. Well, they do but probably not what you think. It is

If you don't pay attention, you might not notice them. I'm referring to the throwaway terms that management teams, analysts and investment bankers use in lieu of hard facts and real data to describe corporate strategy, outcomes and financials.

You're probably so used to hearing them that you've almost convinced yourself that they mean something. Well, they do — but probably not what you think.

It is what it is: “The situation completely sucks and is, in fact, spiraling downward. But if we make any big changes to try and fix it, the rest of the world will get clued into the fact that something is drastically wrong.”

Net-net: This extremely popular one gets inserted all over the place, and it generally means, “I want you to think I'm breaking this down for you into the simplest possible terms, but actually, I'm not going to say anything at all.”

At the end of the day: Another popular insertion phrase, this one can be used as a preface to just about any statement, and it generally means, “I want you to think I'm being completely straightforward, but I'm actually full of it.”

We're challenging paradigms: "Nobody gets what we're doing, and they never will.”

We're thinking outside the box: See “We're challenging paradigms.”

We're pushing the envelope: See “We're thinking outside the box.”

This is a real value-add: “We have no concrete reasons why this makes sense. Perhaps there is absolutely no reason. But we spent a lot of money and resources on it, so we're going to call attention to it.”

This should drive results: “We have no good results of which to speak. Therefore, we are pointing to some inane aspect of our strategy in the hopes that it will distract you.”

We're cautiously optimistic: “We want you to think we feel good about our prospects, but we aren't quite sure — so hey, we said ‘cautiously.’ We warned you.”

It's an unqualified success: “The qualifiers will come soon, and then we will explain why this wasn't a success. Until that becomes painfully obvious, we are singing our own praises. Loudly.”

We're fast-tracking: “We're doing something much sooner than we should, even though we're not ready, because we think we have to.”

We're leveraging our knowledge base: “Right now we have no reason to exist. But we don't want to throw in the towel, so we're going to try to figure out some way to use this technology/service/product that no one has any use for.”

The plan is to grow our bandwidth: “Um, yeah, we know we have to grow somehow. But we have no plan to do that. So we'll tell you we're growing our bandwidth. Right. Bandwidth!”

We don't want to re-invent the wheel: “No, our fundamentals aren't sound. But we sure as hell aren't going to go back and start from scratch.”

That's our stretch goal: “This is something we should easily achieve, but when we do, we want you to think we've surpassed all reasonable expectations.”

Here's how we're benchmarking the metrics: “We either have no concrete way to measure results, or the results that have been measured are extremely unfortunate. So we'll talk about the ways one could, in theory, measure results — we just won't apply any of them.”

We want to be a next-generation player: “Right now, there is absolutely no reason for this company to exist. However, we want you to think that there will be in the future — even if we have no way to prove it.”

It's mission-critical: “It's a nice perk that the management team isn't ready to give up yet.”

We're seeking ways to maximize synergies: “There are no synergies, but we're not ready to admit that yet.”

Writer's BIO: Christie Matheson, a former investment banker, is an editor at Boston magazine.

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