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Buzzword Bingo

by David Brock on August 26th, 2021

Every once in a while, some colleagues and I play a game of Buzzword Bingo. We may be attending a meeting, perhaps watching a webcast, or sitting in on an investor call. We listen for specific words that are “fashionable.” Each of us has a list of words we are trying to find, the person completing their list first texts “BINGO” to the rest of us.

For example, we were listening to a webcast on “effective SaaS selling.” We decided on a list of fashionable acronyms seeking to see how many the speakers used in a presentation. As you might expect they included things like ARR, MRR, CLV, LTV, ACV, CAC, TAM, DAU, ARPU, SDR, BDR, AE, ABM, ABS, MQL, SAL, etc. We applied extra credit points for things like XaaS, PaaS, and so forth.

Each of us had a different set of the acronyms we were looking for. We added an additional challenge, how many would the speakers would mention in the first 20 minutes? We hit 10! None of us remember much about the webcast, but we had huge fun with Buzzword Bingo.

All of us have our buzzwords. Some are very functional, they help us communicate to each other more efficiently. For example as sales people, we all know pipeline, hit-rates, targets, hunting, and so forth. Industries have certain buzzwords–for example, when I talk to many software companies, and the conversation moves to the cloud, I now know not to look into the sky.

Some of the words are less useful for effectively communicating, and more “fashionable.” Sometimes, “If this person is using these words, they must really know what they are talking about….. and it must be important!”

One of the latest buzzwords is “transformation.” It’s a particularly meaty buzzword because it is 4 syllables. Because of this, we assign some level of import to it.

It seems to be applied to everything: business transformation, digital transformation, digital business transformation, marketing transformation, sales transformation, personal transformation, social transformation, and on and on. I suspect we can take virtually any concept and apply transformation to it.

I have to confess to being confused about the concept. Also, I tend to use the word a lot myself, without really understanding what it means.

What are we transforming, and how is it different from our normal change and continuous improvement opportunities? Somehow a transformation seems to imply something big and massive. So while we are always looking to improve our performance, somehow transformation is much bigger and wide ranging.

But when we look at change management principles, “massive changes” have high failure rates. People don’t handle massive volumes of change well. Change is tough, lots of concurrent change is chaos. We find focusing on 1 or 2 key change initiatives, master those, then move to the next, then the next….

There seems to be a concept of “Before Transformation (BT)” and “After Transformation (AT).” It’s as though we’ve reached this target state and now we return to normal, albeit a transformed normal. “We’ve transformed, so now we can put it behind us and get back to work.” But the reality is change is constant, the world changes, our markets/customers change, our companies change, and each of us change.

The reality is transformation is an ongoing journey, that we are always changing, improving, adapting. There is no beginning or end, but a series of different initiatives we implement, continuing to move on. Perhaps, we find the concept of a transformation appealing, because we think BT/AT, rather than continuous improvement.

Transformation is, sometimes, a useful concept. It can be a way to unify all of us in a series of initiatives. A way of setting a direction, more than a destination. When we are moving in that direction, we need to have clear goals to know that we are making progress (but that’s common for every change initiative).

Each of us has a different view of transformation, what it is, and what it means. We may be in a conversation or workgroup talking about transformation, but we are really hearing/understanding different things. So if we have a transformation initiative, great clarity around the direction we are going, why, etc is very important in our change management processes.

Transformation can be useful, but let’s be clear about what it means.

Afterword: Let’s go back to Buzzword Bingo. Please send me the latest buzzwords you are hearing in sales, marketing, customer experience. I need to learn them so I can incorporate them into my blog posts, possibly helping me sound smarter than I really am.

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