Why is it that in business we feel obliged to change everything into an acronym? Is it to save time? Is it simply being lazy? Or is it to make ourselves feel special by creating a language that no one else can understand?
It took me five years to grasp the wonderful world of acronyms at my previous company, only to move jobs last year and have to start all over again.
Oh yes, the TLA (Three Letter Acronym) how I loathe thee. You are the bane of every new starter’s life. You watch as we attend meetings and do not have a clue what is being discussed. You relish our blushes as we fail to comprehend what is being asked of us. How clever you are, for every business uses you. You work your magic on us new starters until your use becomes second nature and we go and spread your annoyingly confusing word.
But it is not just companies that embrace the incessant use of acronyms – we also do it in our profession. Pretty much all of you will understand if I asked you: “Did you receive the QAFs back from the ITT that you distributed earlier this year? You did a PQQ for it. I will check the MI to see when it was sent out.” It is almost like another language that you mastered back in the early days of your career.
However, be cognisant that your stakeholders/cross functional colleagues may not be as fluent. By using unknown acronyms in their presence you could unwittingly be creating a negative impact on your working relationship.
So next time you feel obliged to shorten your conversations with acronyms think again…
How many of you receive or give out messages that fail to be understood? At home, I do it all the time, much to the despair of my husband. “Have you seen my top? Did you enjoy watching that programme last week? Do you know where my thingamajig is?” This inevitably leads to a round of questions and answers until he can finally prise out of me what exactly it is I’m talking about: “The blue and white striped top is in the wash …. Yes, I really enjoyed Come dine with me [hmmm, not sure he’d agree with that] … No, I haven’t seen your nail polish remover.”
Although I am annoyingly vague at home, I couldn’t be more different at work. As procurement professionals, we have to be clear about what the business needs and ensure that the tender document or contract reflects that requirement. For example, if we went to market requesting a tender for “someone to clean the windows of all our buildings” what would we end up with? Probably a prolonged tender period due to the number of clarifications that we would receive: “How many buildings?” “How many windows?” “How frequently?” and so on.
But this is not the only impact of a poorly defined scope. We may end up with a service that is completely different to what we are expecting “Oh you wanted us to come and clean your windows every week, we thought once a year was sufficient!” This probably sounds like a very simple example, but it does highlight the importance of being clear about what you need.
☛ Nicola Bromby is head of procurement, e-enablement, Heathrow Airport