The Saddest Three Letters in Business

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Acronyms have created a new language and we all speak that new language. Some letter phrases are so widely held that we use them in speaking. Phrases like LOL, FYI, BTW are second nature. Others are not as widely used, like @TEOTD (At The End Of The Day) or YKWYCD (You Know What You Can Do), but even those are creeping into the language.

Each one captures a sentiment in a few letters that is both direct and efficient. And somehow the group of letters doesn’t seem as bad as the hackneyed buzz words. Twitter and the constant barrage of instant messages have helped create the new language. It is ever expanding and here to stay AFAIK (As Far As I Know)

But there is one rarely used three-letter designation that can kill a career. Sometimes it is not used explicitly but it is always there, lurking in conference rooms and project plans. The worst three letters in business that can be assigned to your name are: DNF.

DNF stands for DID NOT FINISH. Anyone who ever enters a race knows those three unfortunate letters. Whether the race is running, swimming, bike riding or formula one racing, it doesn’t matter. When the results are posted, DNF next to your name means you started something but didn’t finish. And in a race, just like any project, one either finishes or does not. Swimming half way across the English Channel doesn’t count as swimming across the English Channel. It means DNF, Did Not Finish.

At the office the DNF letters may not be placed next to any name. But the label exists. The DNF label means you start things and that is as far as you got. It means you are good at thinking but not at doing. It probably means no one wants to work with you and it could mean you will be out of a job. You may think others don’t notice or that it is NBD (No Big Deal). It is a big deal and should be avoided.

Don’t be caught in the DNF box. It’s more important to tackle projects that you know you can finish than it is to start huge projects that everyone knows will never be completed. The BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) can be tempting but don’t make the goal so hairy that it will never be achieved. Sometimes you don’t have a choice of assignments but always avoid the dreaded DNF label. Crossing the finish line is a great feeling.

GFN (Gone For Now)

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