Project management can seem like a daunting function to get right, and in many ways, it is.
Understanding some of the industry terms and trends will often mean gingerly navigating conversations full of buzzwords and jargon that can leave your head spinning.
Being able to talk to your project managers using the same language they use can increase the effectiveness of your meetings and lead to better project management.
Let’s have a look at a few of these terms and buzzwords in project management.
Arrow Diagramming Method
This is a network diagramming technique that represents the start and end of activities with arrows. This helps with scheduling in the project planning phase. The longer the duration of the project, the longer the length of the arrow. This is a great way to visualize your planning.
Backlog is a Project Management Term from the Agile methodology Scrum. Backlog is also used across industries to track everything that is needed to complete a product in development. A Backlog also visualizes what needs to be done and the stage the tasks are in at the moment.
Change Control is a term for a process to systemically monitor and approve or reject any change requests made to a product or project. The process is designed to increase project efficiency and minimize Scope Creep (more on this below) by controlling every change and ensuring that changes are made according to set requirements for approving the change.
We’re firmly in project management buzzword territory when we talk about scope creep. The scope of a project is the work that has been assigned to a project and needs to be done and completed for the project to be considered completed and successful. Usually, this scope is decided upon at the beginning of a project during the planning phase. If the scope of a project begins to creep into other areas or the end goal of the project moves away from that which was identified in planning, you’re experiencing scope creep. Usually, as the term might suggest, this happens slowly and without anyone really actively making the decision to expand the scope of the project.
The gap analysis is not a new term by any means, but it’s one that has experienced a surge in popularity. This is a snapshot look at your project at any point in time and a comparison to how the project is actually performing vs how it was planned to be performing. Great project managers will perform frequent gap analysis on projects they are currently involved in and make changes to their timelines and deliverables deadlines to accommodate for the differences – if there are any.
Agile and Lean
The lean and agile approach to project management is something that has seen a huge surge in popularity in project management thanks to the way that it helps maximize engagement. At the core, the reason why agile and lean project management principles have experienced such a surge in popularity amongst businesses and project management is thanks to their huge focus on being able to increase efficiency of work processes and adaptability to changing requirements. Their implementation is made easy by companies like Kanbanize who provide solutions for implementing lean/agile project management practices like Kanban. Plutora.com has insightful resources on agile or scrum – why don’t you take a look?
Jump the Shark
This one is probably one of the more obscure terms, and its name doesn’t give many clues as to what it really means. The term “jump the shark” is from an old TV show called Happy Days – more specifically from a scene where Fonzie jumps a tank full of sharks on his iconic motorbike. In the project management world, the term essentially means you’re taking an unnecessary risk by continuing to pursue an idea that is no longer proving to be successful. If you’re jumping the shark, it might be time for a real assessment as to whether the idea needs to be canned before you push it any further.
The paradigm shift applies to more pursuits than specifically project management, but it is a term you’ll encounter often in project management meetings. Traditionally it refers to a complete change in a process or way of thinking, coined from an author called Thomas Kuhn. In the context of project management, you’ll find the term paradigm shift being thrown around in discussions of change management – or when a process is replaced by a completely different one.
It shouldn’t take you too long to figure this one out. The mission-critical deliverables of a project are those that need to be completed no matter what for a project to succeed or be successful. If you revisit your original project scope or project plan, the mission-critical tasks will not be up for removal or modification at all – because they are, of course, mission-critical – just like oxygen in a spacecraft.
The word itself finds roots in Greek and roughly means working together, which is exactly what synergy is. Synergy is when more than one department or team works together on a project and the sum of the parts is greater than the individual pieces. It can sometimes be a fine line though because if teams work together without synergy, it can be far more disruptive than useful.
Just like in the track and field event of the same name, the sprint is a quick burst at fast speeds. In business, it’s exactly that. It’s a quick project or part of a project, often towards the end, usually no more than about a week in length. It’s a popular term used in the Agile framework that we discussed earlier in this list.
Project management jargon lists consist of many, many more words and terms that are in this list, but these are some fundamentals that will better help you understand project management and the trends in the field right now.
A milestone is a scheduling process that describes the set of related deliverables. These are the significant points in time (milestones) or an event that mark important moments during the project. Milestone is one of the components of the Gantt chart (see more on this below) and you will be able to see them on the project schedules presented as a diamond. These are mainly used for:
- Starting phase;
- Ending phase;
- Fixed dates on the plan.
When your colleague says: ‘we need this needs some Process Improvement’, she means that you need to jump back in, identify flaws or inefficiencies in your project plan and fix them.
Gantt chart is a bar chart that displays the scheduled information graphically. This is helpful in managing the relationship between tasks. This chart can be used to keep the team informed about the project’s progress. Using the Gantt chart, you will be able to see what is achieved by a certain date and, if the project is behind on schedule then an action can be taken to bring it on track.