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Project Management Buzzwords and Clichés
By Bruce McGraw

Clichés are cheating. If one summarizes an idea or a command in cute, “actionable” bits repeatedly, then one is failing to really communicate and is insulting one’s listeners. It may be hard to believe but the hackneyed, over-used buzzwords and clichés that are some manager’s mantras were not always subjects of disdain and parody. In the beginning those terms had meaning. However through over-use and misuse, they became clichés.

Hearing the old and worn out, “Work smarter not harder” the other day in a motivational meeting, got me to thinking about words and phrases that have been driven to the point that they no longer have any meaning and actually make me angry. Using the phrase above, I ask myself, “What does the speaker believe I have been doing during my 12 hour days trying to meet an unrealistic schedule?” “Is he or she saying I am stupid?” “Do they have a clue what is required to solve this problem?”

All of that angst led me to create this list of project management buzzwords and clichés that set my teeth on edge. I offer these in the hope that you will remove them from your vocabulary as a regular diet.

  • Think out of the box
  • Synergy
  • Paradigm shift
  • Anything with “ize” at the end – productize, monetize, incentivize
  • Jumping the shark
  • Run it up the flagpole and see if someone salutes
  • Give 110%
  • Best of Breed
  • Blue Sky Thinking
  • State of the Art
  • Take ownership
  • The Big Picture
  • On the same page (or out of the same hymnal)
  • Mission Critical
  • Best (biggest) bang for the buck
  • Low hanging fruit
  • Bring me solutions, not problems
  • Walk the talk
  • Take ownership
  • Zero sum game – opposite of win-win situation
  • Team player
  • It’s a no-brainer
  • Get ahead of the curve

Bruce A. McGraw is COO/EVP for Cognitive Technologies, a WBE/DBE consulting firm delivering project /program management, collaborative processes, and organizational effectiveness to commercial and government clients (www.cognitive-technologies.com). Bruce has been a program manager for over 25 years and has experience across multiple industries. His ability to craft pragmatic solutions to meet project goals, coupled with experience in all aspects of project management, enables him to meet customer expectations with on-time, within-budget deliveries. Bruce is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and is an active member of the Project Management Institute. Bruce authors a project management blog at Fear No Project and can be contacted at (512) 380-1204 or Bruce.McGraw@cogtechinc.com.

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