Business buzzwords: Decoded

Whether you are starting a new job or launching your own business, finding your way through the fog of corporate-talk in the office can leave you feeling dizzy and disorientated.

There is really no need to speak in business-code, but your colleagues and collaborators might do it anyway. If you want to cut through the jargon, we’ve got you covered:

Action it

In other words ‘just do it’, you’ll most likely hear this when being asked to take ownership of a task. It can be useful, however, to know who on your team will ‘action’ each job that needs to be done. Unless, of course, you are starting your own business or working alone, in which case you'll have to ‘action’ everything yourself. Sorry.


Could be referring to you as an individual or a new style of working, thinking, and developing ideas in teams. ‘Agile working’ usually means quick, flexible and activity-based - breaking down big tasks into smaller ones or, you could say, ‘Bitesize’ chunks. * winks *


As in, ‘I don’t have the bandwidth for that’ meaning ‘capacity’ or ability to complete a task based on your time and mental resources. Just make sure you don’t overuse this one or the boss may be tempted to switch providers.

Blue sky thinking

Meaning to imagine anything that’s possible, to generate creative new ideas completely unrestrained. Ironic really, as most blue skies in the UK are a thing of the imagination!

Boil the ocean

Dramatic much? This bit of corporate hyperbole means to try to do something that is incredibly difficult, even impossible. Just ignore the fact it sounds vaguely apocalyptic.


A classic problem in project management. Bottlenecks happen when there is limited capacity (i.e. people or resources) so work begins to pile up. The result? All processes that follow the bottleneck slow down too, creating a backlog that can only be fixed once the process causing the bottleneck has been sorted.


Used in ‘capture the learnings’, for example. In plain English it literally means, ‘remember and take note of what we’ve learnt from this’. You can ‘capture’ anything – from sales numbers and business ideas to mission statements… just not people, ok?


Like a beautiful waterfall, but also absolutely nothing like one in the slightest. To ‘cascade’ information is to pass it down from senior management to members of a team below them, either as a trickle or a torrent.

Circle back

Exactly like the need to circle back if you’ve ever dropped something from your pocket while riding your bike. ‘Circling back’ can also mean bringing a meeting back on track if it has veered off-topic, or returning to an earlier idea or topic of conversation so that you don’t miss anything or leave it behind forever.

Drill down

Having nothing at all to do with drilling for oil, unless of course that IS your business. It means to investigate or research something further, on a deeper level. Also sometimes referred to (with a completely straight face) as a ‘Deep dive’.

End of play

A sporting term to describe the end of the working day. e.g. ‘Can you get that to me end of play today?’ Careful you don’t get tripped up by international time zones, mind!

Flagging up

Meaning to bring attention to something, usually urgently. e.g. ‘Just flagging it up, Susan - you appear to be parked on my foot.'

Float an idea

Can ideas float like a helium balloon? Of course not. But to ‘float an idea’ is a way to see if someone is interested in it, or in agreement with you, without any negative consequences should they want to ‘pop’ it.


When something is all about the details. Imagine a project a bit like when you see a bowl of salt from far away and it just looks like white blob. If you get closer and closer you can see the individual shapes of the grains, like how in business the smaller issues make the bigger picture. Just don’t try it at home you could get salt in your eye.

Going forward

Simply meaning an intention for the future. e.g. ‘Going forward, Susan, can you park as far away from me as possible?’

Idea shower

I know what you’re thinking: is that like a brainstorm, but less heavy? No. It’s the exact same thing. It's just another, potentially more ridiculous, way to describe a meeting to discuss and develop new ideas in a group.


A word that describes a creative way of generating ideas. It’s more practical than blue sky thinking: this is where a group of people work together to create, develop, and communicate new ideas that can then be tried and tested.


In real life… so not online or in chat. Example, via email: 'Yes! Keen to discuss. Let's take this up IRL.'


Gone are the days when people would rock up to an office, be shown a desk, and told to ‘crack on’. Increasingly, it’s all about the right ’onboarding’ experience. In short, it’s the process through which new employees are given the appropriate skills, training, knowledge and (often) behaviours to help them become effective workers. Many of the largest companies in the world see onboarding as THE single most important part of an employee's journey... Because first impressions last.

On my radar

A phrase often used when you are aware of the need to do something but haven’t got round to it, or figured out how to deal with it. e.g. ‘Have you tidied your room yet?’ … ‘It’s on my radar!’ Sound familiar? It’s used in business as well.


Once the territory of tech startups, these are becoming more and more popular in regular business. It’s a daily progress meeting, where everyone in a team can update each other quickly on progress and also highlight (or ‘flag’) any problems. It's another part of working in an agile way.

Thinking outside the box

Another classic! TOTB is a metaphor that means ‘to imagine or think about things in a new way or perspective’… or outside of the box that constrains us.


This is what businesses ‘onboard’. AKA: employees. Talent management is going to be a term that we’ll hear more of as we progress through our working lives as companies increasingly understand the value of giving their employees a positive experience at work. Not only is this good for business, its good for our wellbeing. We’re all stars now!

Working remotely

When an employee works away from the main company office, either at home (AKA 'working from home'/'WFH') or elsewhere. This style of working is going to become more and more common in the coming years as people demand greater flexibility and freedom from their employers, and employers look to reduce costs. Happy days!

Now you've decoded some business buzzwords, you can hopefully circle back and cascade your knowledge to the other talent you know. Put it on their radars - you know you want to!

Try Milkround's jargon decoder if you want to identify and translate confusing language.

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