Project Management Insights: No Buzzwords, Just Good PM Concepts
The business world loves buzzwords. Consultants and marketers thrive on buzzwords. Google, Twitter and all social channels constantly drill the importance of keywords. Words are the way to stand out or be found in a universe of noise. If we ever wonder if it has gone too far or become a bit laughable, we’re not wrong; comedians take aim at buzzwords quite frequently.
In the last few years, project management (PM) vernacular has gone through its own transition and introduced new words to describe age-old practices. I would agree that innovative thought and fresh approaches are heartily welcome in this field. A good PM concept by any other name is just as valuable, reliable and sound for our work.
“You say either and I say either.
You say neither and I say neither.
Either, either, neither, neither.
Let’s call the whole thing off.”
— “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”
by Ella Fitzgerald
If a different descriptor can aid in adoption of a philosophy or procedure, then roll with it. Like all buzzwords and the precepts they label, however, understand what you are embracing.
• Client-centric. “We are client-centric, and the projects and solutions we provide are developed in a client-forward view.” If your organization isn’t client-centric, what exactly is it? Is it necessary to make this statement publicly? A client-centric business model is not only led by a client-focused strategy and culture, but client-centric operations as well. Most notably in that category is experience, process excellence and leveraged technology for competitive advantage. In other words: project management. In addition to being client-centric, think about becoming a PM-centric organization. It centers around excellent project delivery and the client experience you deliver in the process.
• Cadence. “The project manager leads the team in a weekly cadence of accountability. This ensures we maintain a high level of quality, and thought leadership goes into everything we do.” Or, “We will get on a regular cadence of meetings with the client to manage expectations.” The industry is using cadence as a substitute for “meeting” and “frequency.” Cadence, instead, is an actual duration, mainly in-between milestones. Cadence is how long an iteration or sprint lasts—for example two or four weeks. Even without adopting methodologies like Agile or Critical Path, establishing quick chats to discuss essential phases, blockers or progress on the project will always be good project management. You don’t need to assign it a fancy name.
• Agile. “Our teams are agile because we stay on the forefront of design.” Agile project management has its roots in software design, but for years the industry has borrowed the concept to describe open-mindedness and the ability to be flexible. Professional design firms work with clients on projects where parameters, intentions or outside factors can change at any time. Exhibiting agility in this world is having contingency plans, confidence to make quick decisions, fully open and frequent communication events, and the nerve to thrive in a fast-paced environment. Long-duration projects spanning 18 or 24 months are the least likely to support the practice of Agile, but there are habits worth adopting. Being agile is an admirable trait to have in the industry. One is less likely to get frustrated when the client changes requirements. The daily chat supports forward progress. Continuous improvement really happens. Teams have knowledge to make decisions, and leadership has a light touch in oversight. Agile means ownership and every team member fully owns their role and responsibility.
Project management vernacular comes from a body of knowledge that’s as abiding as engineering and design terminology. Talking with industry peers with a common language illustrates expertise. It’s a tool to convey concepts effectively. Using buzzwords, however, not only takes the concept out of context, but it warps the tool into marketing and propaganda. Dropping buzzwords liberally doesn’t differentiate or elevate the team or project manager. You will do that in better, smarter ways.