Instrument panel from a Ford Model A

I have a confession: I don’t like business jargon (or any jargon, really). 

Did anyone read past the budget’s summary spreadsheet before we learned to drill down? Were enthusiastic donors ignored before we learned to pick low-hanging fruit? And without buy-in was the core competency of our business scalable? Of course, the ecosystem has lots of moving parts and we must be sure to have best practices in our toolbox before we take this discussion offline… Sometimes I sit in a meeting and think we all drank the Kool Aid.

(See Forbes.com for a nice list of “Most Annoying Business Jargon”)

In all fairness, however, these terms do allow for some conversational short-hand — which can be a blessing in a board meeting, am I right? — and before they went viral, they all added visual clarity to abstract concepts. So jargon isn’t all bad. (See how I just used "viral"?)

One particular piece of jargon that appears to me to have some staying power, simply because it does such a fine job of helping us visualize an idea, is the dashboard. There may be a risk that best practices start to require too many key indicators on the dashboard, but when someone uses the term, we all know what they mean.

The dashboard is a simple metaphor, though I hope to see the day when it becomes more than that, when a boardroom is outfitted with two large flat-screen monitors with indicators that track all the data we regularly talk about. This idea was recently touched upon in an In Trust article by Jason Byassee, “A Dashboard for Clergy.” To see the dashboard the article talks about, check out the dashboard created for North Alabama Methodists.

Until that day, you can learn everything you need to know about dashboards on the In Trust website’s Top Topics – Dashboards page. In particular, be sure to check out two classic articles on dashboards by Rebekah Basinger: "Pulling Together on Behalf of the School" and "Reading Between the Numbers." They're a few years old, but still oh-so-relevant.