I’ve been undergoing indoctrination at my summer job at the VA for the last week. Hours and hours of learning how things are done the VA way.
It’s been awhile since I’ve done anything similar, and I’ve noticed things have changed. I’ve noticed acronym-creep. Also, mnemonic-creep. It was underway the last time I had to be indoctrinated back in 2000, but now it’s gotten absurd. They’re everywhere, attached to every idea. The VA (and I have to assume most workplaces) delights in creating them. You know, to help the employee remember core principles, vision, Driving Forces; that sort of thing.
After the tenth or twentieth new acronym, I realized that the corporate world has gone insane. Not a big deal, I kind of knew that already, but it was interesting to see it in action.
SALAD. ACT. CARE. I HATE FALLING. Can you believe it? “I HATE FALLING.” Any day now I expect the text of the bible to be reduced to a fifty page acronym to assist the faithful.
The Navy, as I recall from passing through navy bases, takes a different tack. They name a thing, then they look at the name and shorten it, not the other way round. So they end up with something like “TACFACRQLACMAR,” and actually use it in conversations: “Oh, you need to head down to the TACFACRQLACMAR and pick up a KRIKLOKCHOKMO.” And if the acronym actually means something, that’s lagniappe. In short, the Navy puts the horse in front of the cart. Isn’t that weird?
Nobody else does that. And it’s hysterical to see the tortured way words are shoe-horned into a phrase to make them fit. If the key word doesn’t fit, then, by God, they’ll put a filler adjective in there that will make it fit. And I’m certain there’s a momentary sense of accomplishment for the creator, bless his heart, when all his data are represented in the initials, and the initials can be strung together to make a word that has meaning and is related to the subject matter. That the acronym has become a stew of dumb adjectives and prepositions that mean nothing is not his concern. It’s important to remember that he is totally unconcerned with actual results, with any measurable improvement. Hell, he’s got to be! That’s the only way these things could possibly see the light of day.
But it’s all in vain; I’m not going to remember any of these acronyms I learned in the past week unless they immediately impact my job. And if they immediately impact my job, I don’t need an acronym to remember them.
*”ShoeHorned Acronyms Mightily Suck”