Management cultures, particularly Anglo Saxon, love acronyms. This is something new employees need to learn. If coming from another industry, it’s even worse. But the learning is not particularly painful. Acronyms are part of the tribe’s language that one needs to master to navigate through rituals, and this happens fast. By day three in the new job, corporate speak is incorporated.
Soon one will learn that PTSD is not Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but a Project Team Strategy and Development, and PMT is not a physiological state but a Portfolio Management Team.
You can have a quick and dirty diagnosis of the organization by looking at some of their acronyms. If the top team is a CoDir (‘committee of directors’ in France/Spain) or ExCom (Executive Committee) it is not exactly the same as a LT (leadership team), for example. It’s more than simply semantics.
Of course it’s not only business. Medicine loves acronyms. It makes it more inaccessible so that the qualified Chiefs can keep an appropriate power distance.
Acronyms also elevate an entity to a higher level. If it deserves an acronym, it must be very important.
When there is something serious in the world, from a natural disaster to a terrorist threat, the UK government has something called COBRA. The TV newsreader would proclaim solemnly that ‘the Prime Minister (PM, when in writing, because Prime Minister is too long) has called a meeting of COBRA for tomorrow morning’. COBRA sounds very serious. It’s the name of a venomous snake. It sounds like an attack system, a big reaction in the making. However, COBRA stands for ‘Cabinet Office Briefing Room A’, which is something of an anti-climax. (In the US – I am told – COBRA stands for the Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1986)
Back to the organization, I think there is a case for handing out a contract to a new employee with an acronyms glossary attached, as part of the induction programme.
Most of speech is tribal, life in organizations is tribal, the acronyms are here to stay. GUTIT! (Get used to it!).
Would you like to comment?