Management consultants use terms unique to the industry. If you want to pursue a career in the management consulting field, you should start familiarizing yourself with the phrases, words, and abbreviations consultants use on a day-to-day basis. You can begin with our list of favorite terms below:
When you look at the sky, it seems limitless; it has no boundaries. Accordingly, blue-sky thinking means thinking outside the box or with an open mind. It connotes a creative and unconventional mental exercise.
“Consultants don’t use the same solutions for their clients. They make use of blue-sky thinking to generate effective and customized recommendations.”
Boil the Ocean
Boiling the ocean is impossible. Even if you use an intense level of heat, you will never achieve the desired result. In management consulting, boiling the ocean means you are undertaking a task that is too difficult to accomplish with the available resources. Despite the time and effort you exert, you will never be able to reach the target outcome.
“Making a valid report about the main causes of the bankruptcy based only on these financial records is like boiling the ocean. You’ve got to have additional resources.”
Close the Loop
Commonly used during meetings, closing the loop means ending a topic or an issue with everyone in agreement. It is utilized to confirm a solution or an idea that has been thoroughly explored.
“Shall we close the loop on this marketing strategy?”
MBB is an acronym for the world’s most prestigious management consulting firms— McKinsey, Bain, and BCG. These firms are also referred to as the Big 3.
“Only competent candidates land a job at MBB.”
MECE is short for Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive. It is a grouping principle that originated at McKinsey and refers to creating subsets of items to ensure all relevant information is covered. This is typically utilized when conducting research or designing presentations.
“I think we can apply MECE in analyzing this case.”
On the Beach
When management consultants are on the beach, it implies they have plenty of time for recreation—a rare occurrence in an industry known for its long work hours. Hence, when this phrase is used to describe a consultant, it means he or she is not receiving billable projects from clients.
“In 2009, many consultants were on the beach. It was a ripple effect of the Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy.”
Ping is defined as a high-pitched sound or to make such a sound. However, in the computer and Internet world, to ping someone means to get in touch with a person about a particular matter. It is generally done via email, but the term can also be applied to instant messengers, mobile phones, or other media channels.
“I’ll ping you once I’m done with the presentation for our client.”
Also known as function creep, this term refers to subtle and uncontrolled changes in the requirements of the project, often leading to longer project duration. This negative occurrence usually happens when the project is improperly defined or documented.
“The project is clearly described so I expect there won’t be any scope creep this time.”
This term is an acronym for Some Wild-Ass Guess—an opinion or idea that pops up without any supporting facts, usually based on personal experience. It’s similar to POOMA (pulled out of my ass).
“How do we validate his SWAG? It makes sense to me.”
Literally, the term takeaway refers to food that’s bought for eating elsewhere. In management consulting, however, it refers to a summary of key points that the audience can take away with them after the presentation or meeting. Consultants who fail to ensure their clients understand the gist of their message may be considered unsuccessful.
“She seems to be beating around the bush. What’s the takeaway of her presentation?”
View from 30,000 Feet
When you view something from a distance, you see the bigger picture. Thus, to view a case, factor, or an issue from 30,000 feet means to consider all relevant perspectives and to think more strategically.
“Before we go into the details of this product development case, let’s view it from 30,000 feet.”
Do you find these terms interesting? If so, perhaps management consulting is the industry for you. In order for you to understand the management consulting application process, download our free consulting guide. It discusses the general requirements top-tier firms, such as BCG, McKinsey, and Deloitte, look for in applicants. It also tackles how to prepare for tests and case interviews.