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Corporate-Speak Run Amok: A One-Size-Fits-All Presentation

by on October 17, 2019 5:00 AM

After a few years on Penn State’s Board of Trustees and a few years of listening to corporate-speak in presentation after presentation, I’ve decided to create the following talk as a public service. Feel free to use this satirical piece to cover any corporate, nonprofit or government presentation. When you add your PowerPoint slides, it is sure to show potential clients that you really know your stuff and will be the best person for the job. So here we go...

Your organization wants to move forward and like everyone else is interested in an action plan, one designed to offer the maximum return on investment with a clear and concise list of deliverables.

To that end we should look at best practices, take a deeper dive, do a 360 review, benchmark and have a generative discussion. When working in this space, transparency is critical while we look at the ramifications of any potential decision to see what the outcomes will mean writ large. This could be a game-changer that really moves the needle. We are proposing a transformational path and a new way to frame the discussion to advance the agenda. 

Some will ask if we have the bandwidth or the core competency to question the “conventional wisdom” on these matters. But drinking the Kool-Aid of everyone’s conventional wisdom could be an existential threat to this organization and its future. 

Some will advocate that you think “outside the box.” That is almost a cliché. In this day and age there is no box, we are in a fast moving world that is constantly evolving and that requires precise communication and consensus-building.  

Look, everyone is on the same page; everyone is on board. You’ve identified the problems and you’re looking for sensible solutions, but also something that helps you change course. I’ve been where you sit. I can relate. You have one main question: what is our value-added proposition and how will we accomplish it?

In today’s market you need to maximize a sustainable business model. This will require the strictest compliance model. Risk analysis is critical and that means risk management must walk hand-in-hand with legal and compliance to insure that a successful path forward avoids any threat of future litigation. While we can’t go into a risk-averse shell, we must evaluate risk-reward and the potentialities of varying outcomes.

Also, our brand management is vital. We cannot make a public relations mistake that would require a prolonged period of crisis communications and management. That would be a setback for our rollout later this year. 

We believe we can do a couple of things that ultimately will prove to be a differential for you when we take this to market. There is a rich trove of data out there. It’s just a matter of knowing where to look for the right data and what it means. Combine that with an approach that will utilize detailed information from highly targeted and structured focus groups and we will have an arsenal of information that separates you in this space among your peer groups and competitors. 

In this 24/7 age of on-time demands, harvesting that data provides the metrics and the complex analytics that will allow your decision making process to be faster in delivering real-time results to the market. The future of competition will belong to the most nimble companies who can respond with greater flexibility to the constantly changing demands of the market. 

There are tools we can deploy, from S.E.O. to online tracking of search results to a whole range of social media and other feedback loops that help us understand real-time response to our rollout.

So what does this all mean? We know this: together we will leverage these key learnings for an unprecedented new approach that will deliver results that exceed the expectations of all the relevant stakeholders. 

So what comes next? First we must begin by putting each challenge into the right buckets.

Why is that important? A division of issues and of our work product into the right buckets will allow us to get granular, get down into the weeds before bringing the focus to high level perspectives, making sure to get engagement and buy-in from all relevant stakeholders. Keep in mind that making this process transparent and open also helps us check the box when we are asked about our efforts in promoting diversity and inclusion that are so critical in today’s age. 

Certainly there will be pushback from many who want to resist change. But that is why a grassroots approach to creating a new construct here is the best way. If the people with boots on the ground are in lock-step, then when they take the 30,000-foot view of what we are proposing they will have felt like their voices have been heard. That is how we accomplish maximum buy-in from all the important people in our leadership positions. 

When we attain that, there is nothing to hold us back from realizing the true potential that we as outsiders really can see here.

Any questions?


State College native and Penn State graduate Jay Paterno is a father, husband and political volunteer. He’s a frequent guest lecturer on campus and at Penn State events and was the longtime quarterbacks coach for the Nittany Lions. His column appears every other Thursday. Follow him on Twitter at
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