This is my favorite list of work-related acronyms that always provide me with instant, pithy advice on a wide range of business and work situations - making sales, for example. These acronyms are virtually checklists for all kinds of purposes. Just print this web page out and paste it on your wall, noticeboard. Please use the updated list of 100 useful acronyms, categorized for easy navigation, which I recently posted. You can also now download this list as a free pdf guide.
This guide belongs to 100 Ways To Be Being Remarkable Series, a special project that brings you business and self-development advice from The Success Manual - the popular compilation of 200+ essential business skills and career skills advice.
Always Be Closing. Traditional selling process acronym which emphasizes the need to be continually moving the customer towards action and agreement within sales discussions
Attentive, Peripheral, Empathic. The three main types of listening. Empathic listening is the skill of understanding meaning and motive in another's words, a considerably powerful ability.
Always Listen First. Obviously great for training sessions generally, also counseling, customer service, selling, etc, and relationships overall.
Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.
Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, Evaluation. The process of innovation, any field at all.
Behavior, Effect, Expectation, Results. The headings by which to assess performance of anything, particularly a new initiative. A great discipline when working with a team or delegating another to conduct a review, when it's important to keep the review focused.
Beliefs, Evidence, Needs, Desires, Wounds, Interests, Mentors, Proud of. A model, typically used as a table or template or matrix for identifying motivations and issues of stakeholders within a project plan.
Big Hairy-Assed Goal.
Break It Down. When training anything to anybody never teach the whole thing all at once. Break the skill or process down to digestible parts. This will avoid destroying confidence, and enable gradual progress to the point that the whole thing can be practiced.
Balanced, Observed, Objective, Specific, Timely, Enhancing, Relevant. Useful acronym for coaching and giving feedback to people. If anyone knows the origins please tell me.
Background, Objectives, Scope, Constraints, Assumptions, Reporting, Dependencies, Estimates, Timescales. Very useful acronym for inception of projects, committees, investigations (inquiries), studies, reports, etc, where purpose, parameters and ground-rules etc., have to be established.
Challenge, Location, Advancement, Money, Pride (or Prestige), Security. Employment and recruitment industry acronym: the six acceptable reasons for leaving your job if asked why in a job interview.
Do I Know What I Am Doing? Useful reminder to check readiness before starting anything which might cause problems if under-prepared.
Dedication, Responsibility, Education, Attitude, Motivation. The DREAM acronym seems to feature particularly on rubber wrist bands,
Explain, Demonstrate, Imitate, Practice.
A simple teaching and learning model.
Goals, Objectives, Strategies, Plans, Activities. A simple blueprint and order of thinking for business planning of any sort, even for large complex challenges and entire businesses.
Goals, Reality, Options, Will. A maxim from the life-coaching industry, which makes a lot of sense, and is relevant to any situation that requires realistic objectives to be established, and then the planning and determination to achieve them.
Identify, Design, Execute, Augment. Process for changing anything. Identify the issues, priorities, constraints, resources; Design the plan; Execute the plan; Augment, refine, adjust and improve activities to consolidate change.
Identify, Define, Explore, Action, Lookback. Process for solving problems: Identify the problem, Define it, Explore possible solutions and effects, Action the chosen solution, and Look back at the SNAFU you've brought about (not really - Look back at a 100% successful outcome and a job well done).
Identify, Manage, Change, Improve, Show. The basis of the Japanese approach to TQM, as in: Identify customer-supplier relationships, Manage processes, Change culture, Improve communications, Show commitment. (Acknowledgments to John Oakland.)
In My Humble Opinion. Often used in web-messaging, emails and texting.
Keep It Simple Stupid. One of the all time great acronyms, and so true. A motto and reminder that simplicity works - in communications, design, philosophy, relationships, decision-making, meetings, management and life generally. Apply and promote KISS to any situation to deter unnecessary complication, excuses, bureaucracy, red-tape, and to encourage practical positive outcomes, no-nonsense communications, integrity, truth, beauty, and honesty. Variations on the KISS theme include Keep It Short and Sweet, Keep It Simple Sunshine, Keep It Simple and Straightforward, Keep It Simple Sister, Keep It Simple Sweetheart, etc.
Listen, Empathies, Ask, Resolve.
A fine mnemonic for customer service and other problem-solving communications. Here is more detail of the model represented by the LEAR acronym:
Listen - You must show serious and honest concern for the customer seriously, which you will begin to do by listening. By listening actively you also take the first step towards diffusing customer upset or anger.
Empathies - Put yourself in the customer's shoes and see the situation from their perspective. Showing genuine concern and understanding is vital for empathy. Understanding is not necessarily the same as agreeing, which can be important where the issue needs investigating before finally resolving.
Ask - Ask Questions: ask open questions (what, how, etc) to diagnose the situation or request, and never attempt to interrupt, or justify your point or argue. The customer is not interested in your point of view - the other person wants you to understand them, not present a defense or a counter-argument.
Resolve - Resolve the problem to the customer's satisfaction as quickly as possible. Consider the value of the customer and not the cost of resolving this particular issue.
Listen, Empathies, De-personalize, Offer. Mainly for customer service, and also good for any conciliation or conflict resolution: listen to the complaint, empathize with the customer, de-personalize the situation (both of you stand back and look at it objectively), and then offer a solution. Brilliant and simple.
MMM or 3M
Measurable, Manageable, Motivational. A great tri-pod or three-legged stool analogy - the three essential struts for any contracted arrangement or understanding, or delegated task. Remove any of the three legs and the structure falls over. Alternatively: Mrs, Mother, Martyr, with an optional fourth M for Mistress if appropriate.
Minimum Of Fuss, Maximum Of Flavour. The MOFMOF maxim is extremely transferable to work, management, business, and to life generally, since it essentially emphasises the concept of focusing your effort on what matters most. 'Minimum of Fuss' equates to minimum effort, investment, time, resources, etc. 'Maximum of Flavour' equates to maximum return, result, reward or effect, etc. This is the secret of productivity, sustainable success, and effectiveness in all fields, not just cooking, and is one of the most widely neglected simple rules of achieving anything.
Management By Walking About (or Wandering Around). Depending on who is doing the walking about and whether you are in the vicinity this could be either a good thing or a bad thing. If you are a manager and like to manage by walking about make sure you do it with humility and genuine interest. Better still why not actually do the job on the factory floor for a week and you'll really find out what's going on. Indirectly referred to as the 'HP Way'.
Management By Wandering Around and Listening. Extension of the MBWA management technique.
My Eyes Glazed Over. Watch for this sign from your audience at your next presentation. If spotted you could need more acronyms.... See PEARL and LANO also.
Mediocrity, Ego, Limits, Vanity, Incompetence, Name-calling. Non-productive aspects of workplace behavior and attitude. Various MELVIN terms (eg 'NO MELVIN', 'Don't be a MELVIN', 'No MELVIN's here', etc) help remind people of the behaviors to avoid, especially in blame cultures or negative-thinking environments. (Ack P Lubbers) Sits well alongside other motivational and positive attitude maxims, many examples on the quotes and leadership sections, and links well with the philosophies of Covey's seven habits, Carter-Scott's rules of life and Ruiz's Four Agreements.
Maximum Impact, Little Effort. Acronym to express the principle of optimizing productivity, and the value of identifying 'high-yield' areas on which to apply 'high-yield' methods and techniques. Especially helpful in sales and marketing training. See also PAY and MOFMOF.
Master of Business Administration. Not everyone knows what this actually stands for, and when you think about it, 'Master of Business Administration' arguably gives a somewhat lop-sided impression of what modern business management is all about. Too late to change it now though..
MBO (or MBO's)
Management By Objectives. The classic management, delegation and development technique, but which people's activities and aims - and the coaching support given - can be geared to organizational targets and priorities.
4P (also PPPP)
Piss-Poor Prior Planning. Military abbreviation
Priorities, Outcomes, Sequence, Timings, Attendees, Date, Time, Venue. Nothing to do with Eastern Bloc broadcasting, these are the essentials for a good meeting, and what must appear on the agenda. ('Outcomes' meaning required outcomes, i.e. discussion, decision, etc.)
Problem, Rectification, Investigation, Correction. Known as the corrective action loop. The essential four stages for good quality management practice, customer service development, quality of service, and general personal development. The main point is that rectifying the problem is only half the story; you need to ensure there is no recurrence.
Political, Economic, Social, Technological. Classic situational analysis headings, guaranteed to prompt nods of approval when used in business presentations. You may see 'Environmental' used instead of 'Economic' depending on the context. Either version is actually a very useful analysis and interpretation tool for business and marketing situations. PEST is sometimes extended to 'PESTELI' in which the headings: Ecological (or Environmental), Legislative (or Legal), and Industry Analysis are added.
Paternalistic, Economic, Participative. The three main motivational styles found in organizations and management.
Personal Responsibility In Delivering Excellence.
Read The Question Twice. A very useful reminder for text-based exams of all sorts, notably multiple choice tests, to help avoid making silly mistakes when the answer is known but given incorrectly due to rushing and misreading the question. (Thanks D Ward)
Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, Time-bound. If you're setting a standard, or an objective for yourself, or agreeing an objective with another person, the task or standard must meet these criteria to be effective. Other interpretations of the SMART acronym exist, for example Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound. The version which includes 'agreed' is arguably more powerful because this represents the emotional contract with whomever is expected to meet the objective or standard. The SMARTER version below is more powerful and relevant for the modern world because it includes the essential philosophical aspect. Avoid interpretations that include both Achievable and Realistic because the words effectively mean the same so is a waste of a word.
Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, Time-bound, Ethical, Recorded. The deluxe version of the SMART acronym, a blueprint for all objectives and responsibilities, especially delegation, for oneself or when agreeing objectives, tasks and projects with others. Traditional interpretations of the SMARTER acronym use 'Exciting' or 'Enjoyable' instead of 'Ethical', but in a delegation context, let's face it, it is not always possible to ensure that all delegated work is 'exciting' for the recipient. Whereas the 'Ethical' aspect is fundamentally important for everything that we do, assuming you subscribe to such philosophy.
Social, Legal, Economic, Political, Technological. 'SLEPT analysis' is a business review method similar to PEST or SWOT for assessing factors enabling or obstructing the business's performance, and typically its development potential.
Skills, Strategy, Structure, Style, Systems, Staff, Shared values. The McKinsey organization’s famous 7S model for organizational culture, analysis and development. The idea is that the first six S's combine to form the seventh: 'shared values'
Say Only Nice Things To All People.
Devised originally for school-children, this acronym touches on a fundamental principle for peace of mind and a happy fulfilled life.
Situation, Problem, Implication, Need. One of the most enduring selling acronyms.
Situation analysis, Objectives, Strategy, Tactics, Action, Control. SOSTAC® is a business marketing planning system developed by writer and speaker PR Smith in the 1990s.
Survey, Question, Read, Recall, Review. Impossible to pronounce, but nevertheless a great discipline for the learning-through-reading process. It basically means quickly Survey the whole thing (ie look but not in detail), next note down your Question areas, then Read it in detail, Recall your questions and Review the material you've read.
Subject, Target, Emotion, Perception, Plan, Pace, Adapt/Act. The STEPPPA acronym represents a coaching (notably life-coaching in a business context) model devised and advocated by expert coach Angus McLeod. T he STEPPPA process entails:
Subject - validate the subject (the issue or matter) for the person being coached (coachee).
Target - validate or help to establish the specific target (or goal) of the coachee - called target identification.
Emotion - ensure emotion is addressed and resolved relating to the coachee, the issue, and the target, which if appropriate should be re-evaluated.
Perception - widen the perception and choice in the mind of the coachee.
Plan - help the coachee establish a clear plan (process with steps, not choices).
Pace - include pace (timescale and milestones) in the plan - (the two elements of plan and pace can be combined, and are sometimes expressed as P2).
Adapt or Act - review plan, adapt if necessary, before committing to act on the plan (equating to action).
Sense of direction, Understanding, Courage, Charity, Esteem, Self-confidence, Self-acceptance. Qualities featured in the attitudes and thinking of successful personalities.
Shut Up Move On.
Now a trademark associated with motivational speaker and author Paul McGee ('The SUMO Guy'), the SUMO acronym is a powerful maxim for a positive successful approach to life and work. SUMO has strong connections with the Transactional Analysis and NLP principles of self-reliance, emotional maturity, and focus on future not blame.
Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. Famous marketing analysis headings acronym, and actually a very useful framework for interpreting and explaining business situations. See the free SWOT analysis template and examples, and free SWOT exercise team building game. See also the PEST acronym. Use either or both in business presentations to impress and convince your audience that you know a bit about marketing.
Tell me, Explain to me, Describe to me.. Selling and communications (specifically questioning) acronym reminding sales people to ask customers open questions, which gather helpful information about the customer's requirements and needs. Open questions typically begin with what, how, which, when, who, why, and the TED phrases, and are used for gather information and building rapport (which is dependent on good listening).
Closed questions, which generally prompt yes or no answers, typically begin with phrases such as: Is it..?, Do you..?, Have you..?, Are they..?, etc., and are used for filtering (determining the relevance or 'fit' of customer/offering) and for closing (for example, 'Would you like to go ahead...?') and for gaining commitment ('Do you the xyz aspect...?') and for clarification ('Do you mean in the next week or the next month...?).
Sales people (and many other professional communicators) often use closed questions when they should be using open questions, and so TED is a very useful reminder. The TED questions, which for politeness can be prefaced with the words 'Can you please...' are especially effective when questioning senior capable people who are happy and comfortable to speak at length in giving a long explanation to a very short question. See questioning on the sales training page. See empathy also, for help with listening and building rapport and trust, and for diffusing conflict.
TOTB (thus TOTBoxer and TOTBoxing)
Think Outside The Box/Thinking Outside The Box. A TOTBoxer is a person who thinks outside the box - i.e., very creatively. TOTBoxing is thinking outside the box. Cleverer than a straightforward TOTB acronym, the expression elegantly describes a creative thinker, or the creative act.
What's In It For Me?
The essential element of all successful communications and organizational initiatives, and the principle of persuasion and influence. If there's nothing in it for the other person, they may hear but they won't really listen, and without the WIIFM factor they'll never commit to action.
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