Acronyms and mnemonic devices are techniques that help us remember long and/or complex things. Acronyms are abbreviations commonly formed from the initial letters of a phrase or a list of key words. Mnemonic devices help our brains convert information into a format we can better understand.

A mnemonic device I remember from back in school is “My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas.” The sentence uses the first letter of each word to help us remember the names and position of the planets in our solar system. However, now that Pluto has been downgraded from a planet we have no idea what our mother is going to serve us nine of.

Just a brief survey of the colleagues in my office resulted in this list of common mnemonic devices:

Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally—The order of operations in mathematics

King Phillip, Come Over For Good Spaghetti—The taxonomic classification system (Biology)

Earl Ate Dynamite, Good Bye Earl—The strings on a guitar (my personal favorite from my survey)

However, the most common response to the survey was, “I just write things down on a Post-it note.”  If you don’t have a Post-it handy and you’re trying to start a motorcycle, you may want to remember FINE-C. It’s just another example of an acronym and is taught nationwide to those participating in a motorcycle safety training course.

The quality industry uses its share of these techniques and devices as well. For instance, PDCA, which represents the Plan-Do-Check-Act model, a staple in the International Organization for Standardization’s  (ISO) system of best practices designed to ensure that critical business factors are not overlooked.

As John DiMaria writes in his management article, “A properly-implemented management system can have a profound effect on the financial and organizational strength of a company. Additionally, the International Standards Organization (ISO) notes that formal, internationally-accepted management system standards bring important technological, economic and societal benefits.”

In his article, John also shares the results of two studies, one by Harvard University and one by British Standards Institution, showing that “the ISO and standards derived from the ISO contribute more to a company’s economic sustainability than ever before and there is substantial evidence of an increasing number of manufacturers and businesses that will not even do business with a supplier that is not certified.”

Just some of these benefits include experiencing 10% faster sales growth, growing employment 10% faster, growing payroll 13.5% faster, and outperforming the market by more than 100%. Of these certified companies, 55% achieved cost savings; 75% boosted operational performance; 75% improved their levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty; and reduced manufacturing cycle times by 48%.

For the full story, check out “Improving Your Business with Management System Standards” in the pages of this month’s Quality.

Enjoy and thanks for reading!

Darryl Seland, Editorial Director