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A collection of jargons and terminologies commonly used by consultants.

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There are currently 140 names in this directory
5,000 mile view
A phrase used to describe a high-level, summary view of the situation. 5,000 can be replaced by any large number to indicate the same thing.

Also known as the Pareto Principle, this guideline suggests that 80% of the value of effort can be achieved in 20% of the time. It is a constant reminder in the industry to focus on the most important aspects of a project, rather than getting mired in the details, trying to achieve 100% of the results in far less time. In consulting, this term is used to imply that 80% of an assignment can be finished in 20% of the time.

Can be acted upon or can be done. For example That recommendation is not actionable because we do not have the managerial talent to implement it.

Adding value
A general phrase that can mean a number of things, but all of them revolve around the idea of being productive in a positive way. Evolved from the concept of value added.

Any other business – Term generally used in developing a meeting agenda. Denotes time scheduled to discuss miscellaneous topics in a meeting."

At the End of the Day
A very common phrase used to describe the final or ultimate result, or the urgency of a priority. In other words, a very important point we can't forget. For example I know these projections are difficult to complete. At the end of the day, this presentation needs to include headcount estimates or else the client will not be happy. It's also used as a phrase used to attempt summarisation, introduce an air of finality and perhaps close off certain avenues of discussion; since most consultants’ days do not end with the setting of the sun, at the end of the day most of them are still working.

Business-to-Business, referring to a company’s primary audience for sales and marketing

Business-to-consumer, referring to a company’s primary audience for sales and marketing

Availability. For example I will have bandwidth to take on that project after I complete this customer attrition model.

Refers to a Consultant that is not actively enrolled in any project and therefore not on a billable project. For example John has been on the beach for two weeks and is starting to worry about his value to the firm.

Metrics or standards competitors in the client market attain, usually for operational efficiency.

Best of breed
Something that is considered superior to its substitutes"; can apply to many things in Consulting. See Best Practices.

Best practices
Developing benchmarks for practices or techniques that have shown superior results relative to other practices or techniques.

Big 3
McKinsey, Bain, BCG a.k.a MBB

Big 4
Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, Price Waterhouse Coopers

Bird’s eye view
High Level View

PowerPoint slides that are drawn on a notepad. More senior Consultants often describe a presentation yet to be drafted by blanking a series of slides and giving them to a junior Consultant to perform the work required to complete them.

Blue sky thinking
Thinking out of the box – coming up with unexpected ways of doing something.

Boil the ocean
Describes what might occur if a Consultant is not being focused enough. For example We don't need to boil the ocean to get the exact number on this. Just make an estimate based on historical data for one product line.

Developing an estimate by starting with the lowest-level assumptions and building those all the way up to an estimate. For example, estimating market size by starting with individual products and prices and adding up to a total industry size. Contrast with Top-down.


Completed thoroughly and professionally. For example Get this customer acquisition model buttoned-down and then we'll move on to international market sizing.

To indicate that a particular piece of work or analysis is comprehensive, accurate and capable of withstanding close scrutiny.

Agreement and/or consent. For example Do you have the CEO's buy-in?

Refers to any number of executives with a capital C at the beginning of their title (the C stands for Chief. For example COO, CFO, CEO, CIO, CMO, etc.

Acronym for Compound Annual Growth Rate. For example, if a market grows from $100 billion to $230 billion over the course of 9 years, the CAGR is 9.70%. This is analogous to Internal Rate of Return in Finance.

Campus hire
A consultant hired directly from undergraduate or business schools, as opposed to experienced hire.

Your available time and energy for additional tasks.

A consulting project. (Also called a Study or an Engagement.)

Change management
A service provided by consulting firms to help with a period of major company change, such as an acquisition or a major shift in strategic priorities.

Charge code
A unique code provided with each project/assignment to which you can charge work-related expenses.

Circle back
To catch up again later, but used to indicate that now is not the right time. For example Let's circle up after the 5 p.m. call. I have a few tweaks to make to my model. Compare with Touch base.

The chief concerns of a company or business unit. For example We need to exit these three business lines and focus on our core product.

Core client
A client with a long-standing firm relationship, and one in which there is continual dialogue between senior executives even if there are no ongoing projects

Core competencies
Similar to Core, but usually used to address areas where a company performs very well compared to competitors or similar companies. For example Our core competencies in procurement have led to larger gross margins than other manufacturers.

An adjective indicating that the referenced work or analysis is thorough and complete.

Critical path
The key tasks needed in order for a process to achieve a desired result.

A slide presentation, typically in Microsoft Powerpoint.

Deep dive
similar to double click, this means a thorough in-depth exploration of a particular topic.

Tasks to be completed. Anything that is owed by you to your manager/team, or owed by team to client.

Tasks to be completed.

Double click
Similar to deep dive, this means a thorough in-depth exploration of a particular topic.

To get beyond the higher-level summary in to the details. Compare with Weeds.

Due dil
Short for due diligence, this is a reference to the work involved in a thorough research/study of a particular topic. For example Have you done the due dil on that particular acquisition target?

Due diligence
Comprehensive study/survey of a business model with an aim to set clear expectations, risks, dependencies, etc as part of a business proposal.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization

Elevator pitch
The results and key conclusions in roughly a paragraph. Derived from the idea of being able to convince someone of something important within the span of a shared ride in an elevator.

Elevator test
a test of one’s ability to explain concepts in a short-period of time (typically 60 seconds or less). the elevator test represents a hypothetical situation where you are sharing the elevator with a vip and need to give them a quick summary/presentation during the ride

A consulting project. (Also called a Case or a Study.)

Experienced hire
A consultant hired from another company, typically with a higher starting position and salary than 1st year consultants. see also parallel hire

Meeting in person or being in the office to promote the impression of being productive. For example I have no work to do but I need to go into the office on Saturday to put in a little facetime.

Fact pack
Typically a “pack” of information that provides the essential “facts” on a project/industry/company.

Gain traction
Have a client or senior person engaged in an idea. This is an important concept for selling new Consulting projects, and/or for suggesting an addition or change to a Consulting workplan.

Gantt chart
A type of bar chart that illustrates a project schedule with start and finish dates, deliverables, etc.

Global Management Consultancy, sometimes referring to just the Big 3, sometimes referring to the Big 3 plus the Big 4 accounting firms

A detailed level of abstraction" often used in the context of increasing the fineness of the analysis.


New opportunity. For example Entering the Indonesian insurance market is a true Greenfield opportunity for the Company.

An educated guess. Can also be called a WAG (wild-ass guess) or a SWAG (scientifically wild-ass guess).

Often prefaced with ‘client,’ indicates the interpersonal skills of an individual in relation to a particular group of people, as in, that manager sure has great client hands.

Hard stop
Used to indicate that after the time indicated, the listeners are on their own, because the person stating that they have a hard stop sure isn’t going to be around to help after then.

Similar to 5,000 mile view, but high-level can also mean a very rudimentary analysis (often lacking in detail).

Hit the Ground Running
The ability to add value in a project quickly, meaning getting up to speed on the important details and understanding and taking on next steps quickly. This is a valuable capability for any Consultant, especially junior ones.

Hope you’re doing well
A generally well-intended but insincere interpolation used at the beginning of most voicemails to replace the standard pleasantries that would be present in verbal communications". Use of this phrase does not indicate actual interest in the well-being of the recipient.

Happy to discuss – used at the end of informal memos, e-mails etc to make it clear that although the position you have stated may seem unreasonable, you’re not averse to discussing the point.

Turning blue sky thinking into reality i.e. engineering the outputs of your imagination.

When consultants stay on a project and actually implement the strategies they have recommended.

Interview attire
Suit, and only suit.

Keep this on your radar
This will come back to bite you. Or, me.

Critical; essential.

Let me play this back
Said when the listener wants to refract and colour the conversation through his or her own perspective under the pretence of reviewing the transcript of what’s been said.

Let’s close the loop
Let me make sure i’m not going to get into trouble for this one.

Let’s hit a home run
I’m desperate to look good. Even though the odds of a home run are slim, I’m banking on one because it’s the only thing that’ll save me.

Let’s run the numbers and see how they look
I know they look bad on first blush. But, the true use of Excel is to keep changing the formulas until you find a format that makes the numbers look good.

Let’s think out of the box
Really means coming up with creative ideas.

Let’s touch base next week
I don’t want to talk to you now, or you are on a short leash and you need to report back to me.

Make use of; translate into additional gains. This is an extremely common Consulting word. For example: "We need to leverage the core competencies we have in the mortgage lending business to our other product lines."

Low-hanging fruit
The things that can easily get done. For example This company should focus on the low-hanging fruit within the target market first, and worry later about acquiring the more difficult customers.

Managing Up
Helping superiors to do their job better by giving them feedback, keeping them in the loop, and anticipating problems they may have and helping them resolve them. Managing up is an incredibly valuable skill for junior Consultants.

McKinsey, Bain, BCG, a.k.a the Big 3

Stands for Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive. A standard for developing communications that cover all of the relevant issues effectively without redundancy. Very prominent concept at McKinsey.

A product, concept, analysis, or service that is irreplaceable. For example Do we really need this expensive item? Is it mission-critical?

My plate is full
Help! I’m drowning, or I would kill myself before I’d work on your project.

Niche / boutique consultancies
Specialised consultancies (i.e. focusing on particular sectors).

On board
The status of being assigned to a case, engagement, or project.

Opportunity cost
Basic economic principle that describes the cost of the next best alternative foregone when making a decision.

Consulting-ese for pattern or model or framework.

Parallel hire
A consultant hired from another company, typically with a more senior position position and higher starting salary than 1st year consultants.

Synonym for contact. Originated as an onomatopoeia for the sound that is emitted when someone receives an instant message, but nowadays can refer to any form of contact including email or even tapping someone on the shoulder.

Pulled it out of thin air, also see wag or swag.

Pipe or Pipeline
Short for pipeline and refers to upcoming projects the Consulting firm may have available (e.g. Supervisor, what is in the pipe?)

Typically used to reference the current and upcoming list of client engagements.

Playing catch-up
Joining an existing project and getting up to speed.

Plan of Action

in noun form, a department (either internal or outsourced) of the consulting firm that assists in producing the materials needed for presentations, meetings, etc

Progress Review
A periodic meeting to review progress made and results from time to time. Can also refer to a professional performance review for a Consulting.

Provide color
Include interesting details to an otherwise boring subject.

Push Back
To indicate to a superior Consultant that something is difficult or challenging and may not be realistic. Being able to push back effectively when a manager may be overpromising or unrealistic is an important, delicate skill. Pushing back can also be done if the Consultant is being overworked and feels stretched too thin.

quality control, typically referring to need to check for typos, grammar mistakes, calculation errors, etc

Quick question
The answer will be anything but bizarre since the adjective ‘quick’ is intended, by implication, to be transferred to the answer to said question and does not necessarily have any bearing on the length of the question.

Re-inventing the wheel
Doing something that somebody else has already done on a previous study.

Right sized
Euphemism for downsized.

Rock star
Star performer.

Star performer, i.e., someone who shows impressive capabilities and is often in high demand for new projects. For example John worked 100 hours last week and completed the best merger analysis I've seen in years. He is the rock star of his class.

Sandwich method
A structure for providing feedback that resembles a sandwich – one positive comment, then a developmental critique, ending with a positive comment.

The agreed-upon list of deliverables and boundaries that underpin any client engagement.

Sea Change
A major shift. For example There has been a sea change in the past decade in terms of how retail banks interact with their clients, and how they prioritize customers based on profitability.

Industry sectors (ie fixed telecoms, mobile, media, sports, regulation etc).

Singing from the same hymn sheet
Making sure everyone is stating the same messages to the client or other stakeholders, or that everyone is doing something by the same method.

Smart casual
No jeans, so, trousers with shirt but no tie.

Smell Test
Determining whether a result makes sense based on intuition and experience. For example This analysis doesn't pass the smell test. If it is accurate, then it means that this division accounts for over 200% of our client's market capitalization! Derived from the idea of smelling food or drink before consuming it, to make sure it isn't rotten.

Sniff test
As in evaluating food for rancidity. This term is used when gauging the viability or reasonableness of a particular analysis.

A market; arena.

Stand up call
A ‘quick’ round table team call to update status from each team member/lead, usually no longer than 15-20 mins.

Strategy Consulting
CEO-level strategic advice to clients (normally shorter projects).

Straw man
A construct presented purely for the sake of argument, with the implication that it is not designed to withstand repeated attacks. Strawman a first draft of an output, the main value of which is giving people ideas for what the final output should look like (i.e. it’s meant to be savagely criticised).

A consulting project. (Also called a Case or an Engagement.)

Abridged noun form of summer intern

Some wild-ass guess.

SWOT analysis
Analyzing the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats for a company or set of companies in an industry.

Take the lead on
A clever phrase often used by more experienced consultants when they wish to delegate a menial task.

In other settings, a British term referring to carry-out food. Here, this word has been transmogrified to indicate the salient point that should be retained upon the conclusion of the discussion. Often prefaced with 'key'.

The company being analyzed for purchase/merger in a merger and acquisition case.

Thinking out of the box
The ability to be creative or innovative in solving a difficult problem. Thinking out of the box typically is a blanket solution to a difficult problem that no one has solved yet.

Throw a curved ball
Discovering a new element to something you’re trying to do, e.g. run a project, which changes everything you have done thus far, or are currently doing – normally necessitates radical re-think of approach.

To be transparent
In indication that what follows will be particularly revelatory.

Developing an estimate by starting with the highest-level assumptions and using estimates to drill down to a smaller-level estimate. For example, estimating market size by starting with the number of potential customers and estimating how many purchase the product, how frequently, and at what price points. Contrast with Bottoms-up.

Touch base
To catch up with someone, typically a person with whom you've not had much contact lately. For example I've been dealing with another client all week and I know I owe you some numbers. We'll touch base after my afternoon conference call.

Up or out
Employee promotion policy where if you’re not promoted up, you’re counseled out of the company. Many consulting firms use up or out but not all.

Upward feedback
The process of providing feedback upward to more senior employees, from Managers to Partners.

Utilization rate
Client service hours vs. time on beach. if below 50%, prepared to be right sized.

A takeoff on value added, which is based on the notion of increasing shareholder wealth by contributing to the profitability and therefore value of a firm. Now used to describe anything that adds value, i.e., is positive, productive, and helpful. For example Consultants are clearly value-add professionals.

Visioning workshop
Establishing the client’s ‘vision’, ie where do they see their business/dept in the future, how do they see their staff working, and what is their attitude.


The intricate details of an analysis. Compare with Drill-down.

White space
An opportunity for company to generate revenue where it is not currently. For example, generating revenue from an existing product in a new market.

To make trivial or generally unnecessary edits to text that may only subtly change the meaning.

A schedule for completing a project or set of tasks for a project. The workplan is a dominant issue in all Consulting projects.

A group of tasks that make up a project. Usage – the team was developing various workstreams to complete the client deliverables

Writing a deck
Compiling a slide presentation, typically in Microsoft Powerpoint.