Last reviewed 20 January 2012


Language is used to convey instructions, meaning, ideas and more — so why don’t people talk clearly at all times: why do they lapse into “speaking shorthand” (acronyms)?

Acronyms hardly reduce the speaking time; they can confuse those that don’t understand or break their concentration while they think about the actual meaning. Some people will use them as a form of one-upmanship to try and confuse or belittle someone.

Acronyms can also mean different things to different people. Once I returned home and talked to my partner about a conversation I had had that day with the PLA. He was confused and asked why I was talking with the People’s Liberation Army. I, of course, meant the Pre-School Learning Alliance!

Text messaging and e-mails have also led to “text shorthand”. Within peer groups these are usually understood, it is the wider use of business-related acronyms than can cause problems.

Acronyms’ best use is a mnemonic, or memory device and used wisely they can help in memory retention and learning.

This article will look at some of the more common business acronyms, easily remembered as they are words in themselves, that may be encountered.


The best known one is probably SWOT. SWOT measures an element, a proposition or idea, within a business under the following headings. It helps look at both internal and external factors.

S — Strengths

W — Weaknesses

O — Opportunities

T — Threats

The second best known is probably SMART: this helps when setting objectives.

S — Specific

M — Measurable

A — Achievable/Agreed

R — Realistic/Relevant

T — Timebound

But how about SMARTER? There are two options for the “E” and “R”.

E — Ethical

R — Recorded

Or the alternative:

E — Enjoyable

R — Rewarding

RISK is used as a quick checklist for managing risk in the workplace,

R — Reasonable

I — Identified

S — System

K — Knowledge

Is the risk Reasonable? Identify any implications and identify any way the risk can be mitigated. Is the risk identified within the current System/update system? Ensure the Knowledge is passed on.

DAME is similar and again useful in risk assessments.

D — Describe

A — Assess

M — Manage

E — Evaluate

KISS reminds us not to over-complicate things; that simple is often best.

K — Keep

I — It

S — Simple

S — Stupid (or straightforward)

IDEAL helps in problem-solving.

I — identify (the problem)

D — Define (the problem)

E — Explore (possible solutions)

A — Action (the chosen solution)

L — Lookback (evaluate)

or try BRAN.

B — Benefits (what are they?)

R — Risks (what are they?)

A — Alternatives (what are they?)

N — Nothing (sometimes doing nothing is the best decision: consider it)

DRIVER is useful where procedures or systems need to be accurate, recorded, implemented and understood.

D — Documents (check they are correct)

R — Records (check procedures are recorded)

I — Interviews (check staff understand)

V — Visual (look again; that is, double check)

E — Evaluate (has the system worked properly?)

R — Review (periodically)

ALF is good advice in many situations.

A — Always

L — Listen

F — First

LAST is helpful in complaints handling.

L — Listen (show concern by listening attentively, it can also diffuse anger)

A — Advise (courses of action that can be taken)

S — Solve (implement remedy)

T — Thank (thank them for their time in bringing the problem to your notice and helping you solve it)

Another alternative is LEAR (King Lear).

L — Listen (show concern by listening attentively)

E — Empathise (see it from the customer’s point of view. Understanding is not necessarily agreeing)

A — Ask (questions to understand exactly what the problem is)

R — Resolve


In training and development situations, try ASK.

A — Activity

S — Skills

K — Knowledge

What is the Activity which gives people the Skills they need? — then check their learnt Knowledge.

KASH (spelt badly) is helpful for trainers to explain the different aspects of learning.

K — Knowledge

A — Attitude

S — Skills

H — Habits

Skills and knowledge are easier to develop and change than attitude and habits.

And something all those instructing others should remember is BID.

B — Break

I — It

D — Down

Break down the information into easily understand parts; do not necessarily tell someone everything in one go.

Follow this by TIP; for end of meetings or training sessions to move things forward and get commitment to implementation of ideas/training.

T — Theory

I — Into

P — Practice

Meetings and giving feedback

While perhaps not quite a word in its own right, POSTAD TV is useful for running successful meetings.

P — Prioritise (important things first)

O — Outcome (from each priority ie. discussion, decision, information)

S — Sequence

T — Timing (give each item a specific time slot and don’t allow over-runs)

A — Attendees (only invite those that need to be there)

D — Date

T — Time

V — Venue

BOOSTER is a useful acronym to remember when giving feedback.

B — Balanced

O — Observed

O — Objective

S — Specific

T — Timely

E — Enhancing

R — Relevant

GROW is useful for mentors to help others where realistic objectives need to be set (GR) and the planning and determination to achieve them (OW).

G — Goals (goal setting)

R — Reality

O — Options (how to achieve; the planning)

W— Will (the determination to achieve)

TEAM is used quite extensively for training and team building.

T — Together

E — Everyone

A — Achieves

M — More

An alternative, but complementary definition is the following.

T — Teach

E — Everyone

A — About

M — Motivation

In GOAT we also have two for the price of one!

G — Greatest or Goals

O — Of or Objectives

A — All or Aims

T — Time or Targets

So, for self–motivation to be the Greatest Of All Time know your Goals, Objectives, Aims and Targets.

The market

In a previous Q and A , we covered PEST and LIED.

PEST helps to analyse external factors of the business’s market and potential.

P — Political

E — Economic

S — Social

T — Technological

LIED follows on from PEST and helps to analyse the following aspects.

L — Legal

I — International

E — Environment

D— Demographics

Variations on the same theme are STEP, the same as PEST but in a different order, and STEEP; the extra “E” is for Ethical.

Allied to these is SLEPT that helps assess obstructions (or opportunities) for development.

S — Social

L — Legal

E — Economic

P — Political

T — Technological

There are many more that do not make up words, and so perhaps are not quite as easily remembered.


For those stressful times, remember ERIC.

E — Emotional

R — Reaction

I — Impedes

C — Control

If stressed or angry, count to 10, and remember what PANIC stands for.

P — Pressured

A — And

N — Not

I — In

C — Control

Just remember that pressure alone does not cause panic; it is whether the pressure is controllable, and what hopefully we all do is GEM.

G — Go the

E — Extra

M — Mile


OGRO is not really a word, but it is one I like.

O Great Responsible One — for those who have delusions of grandeur or have difficulty delegating or sharing.