[ID] => 11325
[post_author] => 43
[post_date] => 2019-08-01 11:07:06
[post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-01 10:07:06
[post_content] => Will I lose my job as an occasional columnist if I don’t know if the magazine is officially ‘Hazardous Cargo Bulletin’ or if the acronym ‘hcb’ is now its official name? Yeah, maybe I shouldn’t have asked that out loud. But really, aren’t they pretty much interchangeable? I guess potential new readers would find Hazardous Cargo Bulletin more descriptive than hcb, and know that it will be of interest to them, but for most of us they’re interchangeable. As an industry we use a lot of acronyms, often interchangeably with the full phrase, term, or name that the acronym has shortened.
In the world in general, though, it’s not always that way. Sometimes the acronym replaces the phrase completely. What does ‘laser’ stand for? Where did we get the word ‘sonar’? In my favorite example of the acronym becoming a freestanding word on its own, the meaning of that word changed from when it was an acronym. ‘For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge’ (great album title, by the way, Van Halen) is an old-fashioned term referring to illegal sexual intercourse, either infidelity or underage or both. Of course, now its acronym is a word that refers to all sexual intercourse, whether unlawful or completely legal. And, of course, it’s also a swear word used as an exclamation of disgust and/or frustration.
Some acronyms aren’t unique though. Heck, browsing lists of acronyms on the interwebs makes me think almost all acronyms aren’t unique. Normally though, the set of people who use CSF to mean the California Scholarship Foundation doesn’t have much overlap with the set of people who use CSF as shorthand for CerebroSpinal Fluid. And it’s hard to imagine context that would make it difficult to distinguish one CSF from the other CSF, or in fact from any of the other dozens of names for which CSF is an acronym.
But sometimes there can be an unfortunate acronym used for different terms in a single field or industry. Once upon a time I joined (okay, my employer joined) a US-based organization called the Hazardous Materials Advisory Council. By the way, I never got an official determination on whether HMAC was to be pronounced Aitch-mac, Hey-mac, or Aitch-Em-A-See. Anyway, as one of the first ever NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to join the United Nations Committee (Yes, it was once a committee, not just a sub-committee) on the Transport of Dangerous Goods, HMAC decided to move from being a US-focused organization to a global one. Part of that change in goals was recognition that “hazardous materials” implied US, while “dangerous goods” is the equivalent global term. So, HMAC became DGAC (with the same kind of pronunciation issues, Dee-jack, Dee-gack, or Dee-Gee-A-See).
Alas, there is another DGAC in our industry, France’s Direction Générale de l’Aviation Civile, which was so named in 1976, long before HMAC’s name change. So, if there were to be a DGAC meeting about fees/taxes related to the air transport of certain dangerous goods, which organization is hosting the meeting?
There is a much more egregious example, though, potentially affecting the DG world these days. While everyone is in favor of competence (at a minimum) in DG training, both in the delivery of the training as well as in the subsequent capabilities of the trainees, calling current proposals “competency based training” is a bad idea, and using the acronym CBT is a worse one. Let’s address them in reverse order.
Professional trainers have known and used the acronym CBT as meaning Computer Based Training for at least a couple of decades. And during those decades there have been informal discussions and formal studies and all kinds of debate on the pros and cons of the various ways computers can be used to assist in training delivery. CBT, the established acronym, covers webinars, videoconferences, CDs/DVDs, digital re-delivery of previously live presentations, and more. CBT-original does not cover live, in-person, hands-on delivery of training. CBT-original can be wonderful, and it can be horribly misused, but that’s not the point of this column. Any trainer who was interested in the varying effectiveness and costs of different methods of training delivery knew the acronym CBT.
So, how is it that those who propose competency based training would use that potentially confusing acronym? The newer CBT may involve CBT-original or live training or both. So, actually, a knowledge of CBT-original could potentially help assess whether the CBT-new goal is likely to be achieved in a given situation.
Now, please, re-read that previous sentence ignoring the “-original” and “-new”. Hard to tell that CBT isn’t always CBT, isn’t it? Context doesn’t help much, does it? And what if non-CBT-original (live) methods are used to try to meet CBT-new goals? Try explaining that to upper management. ‘We won’t be using CBT even though CBT is required’. I know appearances can be deceiving, but it sure does appear that whomever chose the CBT-new acronym didn’t know much about CBT-original, or they’d’ve tried to find a different one.
Which brings me to my second point about CBT-new. Is “competency based training” really training based upon competency? Isn’t competency the desired outcome rather than the basis of the training? I’m fairly certain I know what is intended by the term, but isn’t there a more grammatically correct way to word it? How about something like Achieving Competency Through Training? Doesn’t that say it better? Oh, and it’s not got CBT as an acronym, either. Hey, there’s something about this alternate acronym that makes me think the status quo, the “but we’ve always done it the old way” method needs some action to change it. And in all-caps, doesn’t ACTT suggest we need to act sooner rather than later? Maybe I should formally submit this alternative acronym. Ah, maybe, but first a visit to AcronymFinder.com… pause… Drat, AirCraft Total Time, and, Air & Command Tactical Trainers beat me to it. Maybe, then, instead, Achieving Functional Competence through Training, AFCTT or AFCT?
Regardless, I think if we want employers and trainers to understand and properly implement the new guidance, we have to be crystal clear in explaining what we mean. For me, step one is getting rid of the CBT (-new) acronym, and the second step is choosing a new term that is clear that competence (if not excellence) is the desired outcome and not the starting point.
HexaChloroBenzene, HTML Comment Box, and Hood Canal Bridge probably don’t mind sharing hcb with Hazardous Cargo Bulletin, with or without periods in the acronym.
This is the latest in a series of musings from the porch swing of Gene Sanders, principal of Tampa-based WE Train Consulting; telephone: (+1 813) 855 3855; email firstname.lastname@example.org.
[post_title] => From the Porch Swing: Where are the periods in HCB?
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[post_name] => from-the-porch-swing-where-are-the-periods-in-hcb
[post_modified] => 2019-08-01 11:09:13
[post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-01 10:09:13
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From the Porch Swing: Where are the periods in HCB?