A good friend of mine used to work for Royal Mail. It was many years ago as part of their graduate programme and Jon was based out of the colossal depot at Greenford in West London.
Like many graduate schemes, it featured a comprehensive programme of guided learning, support, introductions, and expectations. This was the late 1990’s so rather than being a slick code or perhaps a data stick, Jon was presented with a selection of plasticated lever-arch files and numerous physical resources. Strange methods indeed.
One of the resources included in the boot load of stationary, was a somewhat smaller volume of what were known as TLAs. It was little more than a supplement to the overall pile, but it was understood to be one of the most crucial volumes he was to be issued. Information so critical to his development process, that it must be retained, researched and revered. In time, the contents would need to be committed to memory, such was their importance.
So what were these mysterious TLAs? Codes to accessing Royal Mail secrets perhaps? Sadly, nothing quite so dramatic. As it turns out, the TLAs were the book of Three Letter Acronyms which formed the basis of all the jargon an institution the size and gravitas of the Royal Mail could muster.
In daily life, we use TLAs all the time barely thinking about them. Sometimes in a professional context, other times, completely social. Jargon takes up a lot of this space, but in an age where brevity is valued, trimming precious seconds in the delivery and reception of information has become the norm.
Making information bite-size can make it easier to digest, but it can be misunderstood or misinterpreted. Some years ago, former Prime Minister David Cameron got himself in mischief by signing off a number of sincere missives with the commonly used TLA, “LOL”, under the misconception that it stood for “lots of love”. Clearly they are a language all of their own.
In general parlance however, TBC, TBD, FYI and so forth are universally known and accepted. As it is in business, where ROI, PPU, and SKU all save time. There is one TLA that has come more into vogue with our increasing reliance on digital solutions. In the race to bring ideas to market, in a setting where being first matters more than being best, the MVP has become a TLA to represent this. Not Most Valuable Player, but Minimum Viable Product.
For certain a lot has been written about this idea and it is certainly not without its drawbacks, but the idea of developing an MVP actually points to something even more important in business than getting in first. It is a mechanism that can help deal with procrastination and the paralysis of perfectionism. Rather than waiting to get one’s ducks in a row, sometimes the best step is the brave one. Take the plunge. Make your idea visible. Get real people to feed back their thoughts.
As an employee, you are blessed with someone to answer to. But as an entrepreneur, it is up to you. Even if you know you have not yet worked out all the bugs, let your customers tell you and help you make improvements.
Ducks seldom walk (or paddle) in a row. And after all, as they say at Nike – JDI!