MCC Pro: What does ASAP mean? Are we communicating it effectively to our employees?

June 27, 2010 by · 50 Comments
Filed under: Bits and Tips 

by Alisa Crider, PR Associate

ASAP – what does it really mean? According to Dilbert’s comic strip it means “A Stupid Acting Person,” but if you ask the Dr. Seuss’ character Horton, from Horton Hears a Who, it “probably” means “act swiftly, awesome pachyderm.” However, “As Soon As Practical”, “After September, April Possibly” and “As Slow As Possible” are some playful, yet slang, pop culture meanings of the acronym. To the rock and roll fans it is the abbreviation for “Adrian Smith and Project,” a progressive rock band created by guitarist and vocalist Adrian Smith of the English band Iron Maiden. Although that “rocks” for some, I think it’s OK to assume that most people in the business world think the acronym ASAP means “As Soon As Possible.”

Believe it or not, there are hundreds of non-slang definitions for ASAP from various categories including: Information Technology (IT), Military & Government, Science & Medicine, Organizations, Schools, etc., and Business & Finance. For example, to the Navy it means survival – “Advanced Survivability Assessment Program”, which is a naval ship design, but to the Army it means trouble – “Army Substance Abuse Program. It’s the Automated Standard Application for Payment to the US Treasury Department and Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel to NASA. In the UK, it’s the “Association of Social Alarms Providers” and in Slovakia it means “Aeronautical Services and Procedures”.

Most commonly in our business communications, the acronym is used to express the importance of some act. It has higher priority than anything else and will be done in a short period of time. If this act is not done, it typically results in bad consequences that every employee wants to avoid if they like their job.

Besides working for Managing Communications Consulting, I also work at a law firm and as one should know, you can’t mess with the law! I was given an assignment that had to be done ASAP. I had not been working there long and had never been given an assignment with such apparent urgency. A check needed to be signed by the lawyer who wasn’t in the office. After obtaining his signature at a restaurant nearby, I then had a 30-minute drive to the court house to make the crucial deadline. If I drove really fast and didn’t catch any lights, I may have made it to my scheduled dentist appointment. Well, I had to reschedule. It’s funny how priorities can change when you are told something has to be done ASAP. It’s an acronym that brings stress and anxiety to me yet at the same time its exuberating because you know you have an important challenge ahead.

I think ASAP should be used sparingly. When bosses overuse the acronym it tends to lose its urgency. A boss that uses the term sparingly is more likely to get the desired result in a timely fashion.

Anyway, I seem to like the other definitions better. Remember… Always Say A Prayer…or is it Always Stop and Pray?