Project management terminolgy – what a turn off

Over the years, I have worked with many professionals – from doctors to engineers; from educators to accountants; from marketers to managers. Each professional group has its own terminology and TLA’s and FLA’s (three and four letter abbreviations – sorry; had to get those in) which for the outsider becomes difficult to follow. But when exactly does tradition become the unwritten rule?

The language becomes a barrier to communicating effectively with people. This was driven home to me about 2 years ago when a person on a project management course asked me what we meant by the word scope. I spent a few minutes explaining the term and they understood. However, a little later on there were further words to clarify such as project lifecycle and milestones.

We need to make it easy for people to understand project management language

I remember spending some time on the train saying to myself that I needed to make it easier for those coming along to our courses to understand some of the basic language we use in project management. I decided to put together a fuller explanation in the form of a simple glossary of project management terms. This has made a real difference:

  • I now introduce this at the start of the course and it immediately draws attention to the issue
  • I ask course participants to actively ask questions about project management terminology and use the glossary which is in our training notes
  • I link to other projects – many are partnership projects where the level of project management maturity is (sometimes) higher than the client groups I am working with. Thus the language issue becomes important

I wonder how many people have really been turned off by the language issue before I started this process. This again was brought home to me when Project Agency needed a new computer. I called a couple of companies and the language used was far from customer friendly.

We need more engagement with those coming into the project management arena – and this includes stakeholders. We need to be clear about our language, and we may even need to add a drop of sex…well not quite

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