T.M.A. – Too Many Acronyms!

March 25, 2013

I haven’t learned much over the years.  But one thing I have learned is, we have far too many acronyms.  It started with government agencies (GOV), and it has invaded corporate (CORP) headquarters (HQ).  Like an invasive species, it’s threatening to choke off innovation.

STMLGrowing up in Washington, D.C., it’s part of my lexicon.  There’s DC, DOD, DOT and DOJ.  Don’t confuse the FCC with the FEC or the FAA and FDA.  We all know the CIA, NIH and EPA.  In the corporate world, we tremble when we hear SEC, IRS or FTC.  The three-letter acronyms have a prestige and status over the four- or five-letter ones.  The longer acronym usually salutes the shorter one – NHTSA to DOT or DARPA to DOD. 

Many sports organizations are known only by their acronym.  There’s, of course, the NFL and the NBA.  We all know what they stand for.  For sports, it seems to work.  You need a logo that can be slapped on cars, helmets, sleeves and a thousand other things.  But what about ESPN or NASCAR?  NASCAR is pretty easy.  It means National Stock Car Racing Association.  But ESPN?  Does anybody know that it’s Entertainment and Sports Programming Network?  That’s what it is – ESPN.  Very good branding, though.

Marriott and many other companies are guilty of using these impersonal initials up and down every hallway and in every meeting.  At our recent executive leadership meeting, I pulled out a list.  See if you can guess what they mean.  There’ll be a quiz on this later.  I don’t have the answers myself.

MICE – What the heck are MICE?  Are they running around the building?  I hope not.

DAM, NAM, EMC, COE, BME, CGC, SRM, GOS, COS, CPC, CRM, MNC, HLN, PTO, MBO, LPP, GSS.  And they go on and on.

Come on, you guys.  As I told my kids when they’d misbehave on a long car trip, “Enough is enough!”  I’ll leave you with my favorite acronym:  STML – short-term memory loss.  Let’s forget these useless acronyms.  Chances are we already have. We don’t understand them.

I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.

What's your favorite (or unfavorite) corporate or government acronym?  

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Wonderful post! Thanks for sharing.

Mr. Marriott:
Like you, I am not a fan of the laziness that surrounds using letters as a means to explain a noun or other group of words.
Moreover, we make it worse when we add additional words to the acronym that is already in place! I make it a point to "borrow" every sign I see stating "ATM MACHINE inside" as ATM of course stands for Automated Teller MACHINE. There is even a movement of psychology that has enumerated these instances of sloth. It's called RAS Syndrome (ironically Redundant Acronym Syndrome Syndrome). And just for clarification, NASCAR stands forthe National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing. Some people might get offended (I have a friend who is a die hard fan). I appreciate this blog, as it inspires me to view things that I haven't considered before. It just hit me that there may be one place where acronyms are useful (NYSE:MAR) :)

PMS, was very hard to get use to

I think POS is too funny for the cashier system. LOL

Funny, but true and informative.

I.D.10 T. eRROR

Its a favorite saying around the desk for those moments when you're just thinking too much. Looks like an acronym but really, it's pretty straight forward!

Thank you Mr. Marriott for your much needed and very appreciated reminder (which I am going to share with my team tomorrow). This BSA has gotten so out of hand that even I often WIG out when this PIPing stuff gets rolled out by our leadership Team. When a BLT is no longer a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich, you know we have gone too far. Thanks again for reminding us of the things that truly matter and have made and continue to make our company so successful.

My current least favorite corporate acronym is CI/TY. Mr. Marriott, you always taught us that we should manage by walking around and engaging with our associates and guests. It is gettting more and more difficult to "go that extra mile" when we are stuck behind a computer instead of "out and about" the hotel thanking our associates for all they do each day and engaging and thanking our customer for staying with us. Thank you again for this inspiring reminder!

My favorite one is GRS (Global Recruitment System).


Wow! It is so true, so much to learn from you

I WHOLEHEARTILY AGREE. TOO MANY ACRONYMS. Enough is enough. The one that gets me is the the Marketing and Communications group in the company that I work for is MARCON. If ANY group should use clear and easy to understand language it is marketing communications. I hope that I can resist the trend and speak clearly so that all will understand. Thank you, Mr. Marriott, for your blog on the excessive use of acronyms!!!

my favorite acronym is LOL (laugh out loud!) i learned this while using AIM (aol instant messenger)

On of my favorite "Computer/IT" acronyms.


Problen Exists Between Keyboard And Chair

Enjoy the thought, been there ....

Love MICE! Want MAP to go away .. when NE ski resorts start using the term you know it's overused. LDW is another one. How do you feel about B2B and B2C?

I could not agree more -- I too have grown up in DC and just as guilty of using too many acronyms. Before my father passed away he said to me one day when i had just used a string of letters to a client on the phone -- "What the heck did you just say? You better start talking like a professional and use grown up words."

Since then I have tried to live up to my father's expectations and use "grown up words" and fewer acronyms although I do get caught every now and again falling into the acronym trap. Thank you for the reminder of what my Dad told me.

Gregg Gregory
Teams Rock

My favorite acronym is NASA.

PMS always gets a giggle when we are training new hires on the computer system.

First time reading Mr. Marriott's blog...I must say I was laughing outloud in agreement! So funny but so true! Love it...

The hospitality industry has far too many acronyms. Probably the one I find most interesting is SMERF. I always think of little blue guys going to the grocery store when I hear someone mention the "SMERF market."

I agree we tend to go overboard with acronyms. One popular dictionary notes that "Acronyms are often less clumsy than the complete expressions they represent and are easier to write and remember". Its ironic that they tend to have the exactly opposite effect - make the conversations hard to follow and obscure the ideas and limit their reach.

On the other hand, many companies have very successfully re-branded themselves by making their initials their official names - 3M (Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company), KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken). In some cases the acronyms are so widely used, the brands such as NPR and Y (YMCA) often make it official to simplify the marketing communications and revitalize the brands.

Sometimes you wonder if this just a reflection of where we are headed as a society. Do we have the attention span beyond the bite sized information that fits, with a healthy dose of acronyms of course, into an instant message or a tweet?

Nothing worse than sitting in a meeting when you're new to an organization and all they do is talk in acronyms. How many times can you interrupt the speaker to ask what the acronym means? I thought I was the only one who hated them. Thanks, Mr. Marriott!

Ironic considering Marriott has the mot acronyms for an organization that I have ever seen! Isn't there even a Marriott acronym dictionary on their internal website? Maybe it somes with the territory in the hospitality industry where we started with general acronyms like ADR and BEO.

One day I would like to meet that MARSHA chick....

I needed that! Thank you Mr Marriott
I was beginning to think I was the only one to think that we are using way too many acronyms!

I laugh when with Marriott we went from NTS (National Transientl Sales) to BTS (Business Travel Sales) and then to AAD (Alliance Account Directors) to being a part of the GSO (Global Sales Organization) all while undergoing Sales Force Transformation! I now endorse YOLO...You Only Live Once!