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125 Project Management Buzzwords

Whether you have decades of project management experience or are trying to change career fields, without fluency in industry-specific terms, executives and peers are likely to either overlook your expertise or not draw the connection to your knowledge and professional experience unless they come from a similar background and are part of similar professional project management organizations.

So, picture this: you are transitioning from your current position into a project management career. In my instance, it was when I was retiring from the military. The industry didn’t matter; it was about translating my work experience into specific project management industry-recognized terms and managing projects.

Whether you are just starting out, developing your project manager resume, or a seasoned professional, mastering the Project Management Buzzwords is non-negotiable.

What are the Essential Project Management Buzzwords?

As the project management professional landscape continues to grow, terminology can help you bridge the gap between your past experiences and future roles. It’s not just about showcasing the work you have done; it is about framing it in a language that the industry understands. That’s where our comprehensive list of Project Management Buzzwords comes into play. Whether you’re tailoring your resume with project management skills , preparing for an interview, seeking to earn a certification, or simply seeking clarity in meetings, this list of top project management buzzwords should prove to be an invaluable tool.

What are the Essential Project Management Buzzwords?

Acceptance criteria

A set of specific conditions or standards agreed upon between the customer/client and the project team that must be met for a deliverable or project, resulting in the deliverable or project being considered complete or accepted.

Activity

An activity is the actual, specific task that must be performed in a project, i.e., the tactical level of work.

A flexible and dynamic approach to project management that allows for iterative updates during defined time blocks, which allows for incremental value.

The fundamental document that outlines the values and principles of Agile project management.

Agile team 

A cross-functional group of individuals (e.g., Product Owner, Scrum Master, Development team members) who work collaboratively to deliver value in an Agile project.

A capability of machines that aim to mimic human cognitive functions, such as learning and/or problem-solving.

Backlog

A list of tasks, features, or requirements to be addressed by an agile project manager or team and is often associated with Agile methodologies.

Baseline

An original plan for measuring performance and tracking changes.

Benchmarking

Identifying a project performance indicator or practice, then assessing it against industry standards or best practices.

Bottom-up Estimating

A project estimation technique that leverages tactical-level team members/subject matter experts (SMEs) to break down tasks into smaller components to create a more accurate estimate.

Burndown Chart

A tool in Agile project management that tracks the work completed and the work remaining to help teams manage progress.

Business Analysis

A process in which an individual identifies business needs, defines solutions and facilitates change to meet organizational goals.

Business case

An organization will develop a document to justify the investment in a project (i.e., identify items such as benefits and costs).

Capacity Planning

To identify the number of resources (e.g., hours, personnel needed, and/or tasks) to ensure that a project can be completed on time and within budget.

Change Control

A formal process of documenting, reviewing, approving, and managing a change to a project’s scope, schedule, budget, or quality parameters.

Change Management

The approach to plan and implement strategies that guide individuals and organizations through a change (e.g., process, policy, practices, perceptions, etc.) effectively and efficiently.

Change Order

A formal request to modify an agreed-upon project scope, schedule, budget, or quality specification. This is generally initiated by the customer/client or stakeholders.

Change Request

A formal request to change a project’s scope, schedule, resources, or quality specification – is typically submitted for review and formal approval.

Communication Plan

A documented approach to managing project management keywords and delivering project-related information to various internal and external stakeholders.

Conflict Resolution

Addressing and resolving disagreements. 

Constraints

A limitation or restriction that impacts a project.

Continuous Improvement

The ongoing effort to improve a project process, product, or service to achieve better results. Also known as continuous process improvement.

Cost Estimation

The process of estimating project costs is done by leveraging historical data, expert judgment, or quantitative models.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

A method is used to assess a project’s potential benefits compared to its costs to determine if the project is worth doing.

Critical Path Method (CPM)

The critical path method determines the longest sequence of dependent tasks in a project, thereby determining the project’s overall duration from start to completion.

Critical Success Factor

This project management term is an essential element or condition that is vital to project success.

Cross-Functional Team

A group of members with diverse skills and expertise (e.g., engineering, IT, human resources, etc.), often from different departments or areas of specialization.

Daily Standup

A brief, daily meeting in Agile project management where team members discuss their work progress and impediments. It is often synonymous with Daily Huddle and Standup.

Decision Matrix

A structured table to evaluate and prioritize options and factors based on predefined criteria to aid decision-making.

Deliverable

A tangible or intangible product, service, or result is produced in a project.

Dependency

A relationship between project tasks or activities where the completion of one job depends on the other.

Dependency Mapping

Identifying and documenting the relationships and dependencies between project tasks or activities.

Earned Value Management (EVM)

A systematic approach to project performance measurement assessing schedule and cost performance.

Feasibility Study

An analysis of a project’s viability. The consideration is toward a potential project’s technical, economic, legal, operational, and scheduling factors.

Feature Creep

The unauthorized or uncontrolled addition of new features or requirements to a project often leads to scope changes.

Fishbone Diagram

A visual tool used in root causes analysis to identify a problem or issue; also known as an Ishikawa Diagram and Cause-and-Effect Diagram.

Flowchart

A visual representation of a process or workflow is often used for process analysis and improvement.

A horizontal bar chart that displays tasks or activities along a timeline, showing all work packages and/or activities and their dependencies from the start to the end of a project.

Issue Log

A document that tracks and manages project problems, including their status and resolution.

Iteration

In Agile project management, a timeboxed development cycle typically lasts two to four weeks.

Kaizen

A Japanese term that suggests incremental changes and employee involvement for continuous improvement of a process, product, or service.

Kanban board

A visual tool used in Agile project management to monitor and manage project work.

Key Performance Indicator (KPI)

Key Performance Indicators are quantifiable metrics used to assess employee, project, and organizational performance.

Lean

A project management philosophy that aims to maximize value while minimizing waste.

Lean Six Sigma

Combining Lean and Six Sigma methodologies to eliminate defects and waste. 

Lessons Learned

Leveraging the experience and knowledge gained from past projects to inform and improve future project outcomes.

Milestone

A specific point or event in a project is used to track progress and mark achievements.

Mind Map

A visual representation of interdependent ideas or information is often used for brainstorming or organizing thoughts.

MoSCoW method

A prioritization technique is used to categorize project requirements as “Must-haves,” “Should-haves,” “Could-haves,” or “Won’t-haves.”

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

A version of a product with minimal features to satisfy customer’s requirements/specifications and gather feedback.

Organizational culture

The shared values, beliefs, and norms shape how individuals and teams operate within a firm.

Pareto chart

A bar chart that displays data in descending order to identify and prioritize the most significant factors or issues. See Pareto Principle.

Pareto Principle

The idea is that a significant majority of effects or consequences (80%) come from a small number of causes (20%). It is also known as the 80-20 rule.

Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) Analysis

A project management methodology calculation is used to schedule, organize, and coordinate tasks within a project by identifying the optimistic, most likely, and pessimistic time to complete an activity.

Project

A project is something that has a definite start and end (i.e., it is finite). It is unique, complex, and interconnected, all to produce a desired outcome. Projects are generally a mechanism for change and may leverage innovation.

Project Management

A discipline that supports the effective management of projects through the project life cycle. This is done by performing work during initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing with a keen focus on meeting customer/client outcomes, and managing the schedule, cost, scope and quality the requirements/specifications.

Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK)

A comprehensive guide by the Project Management Institute (PMI) that establishes the standard for project management processes and practices.

Project Management Information System (PMIS)

Provides tools and processes for project management and information sharing on projects.

Project Management Office (PMO)

An organization’s centralized office or department that oversees and supports all organizational project management efforts.

Procurement

The process of obtaining goods, services, or works from an external source.

Product Backlog

A prioritized list of features, enhancements, and fixes for a product that needs to be accomplished and is often used in Agile product development.

Product Owner

An Agile team member who is responsible for representing the customer/client’s interests and prioritizing features in software development.

Program Manager

A project management term for an individual that oversees and coordinates multiple related projects, ensuring they align with organizational goals and deliver the desired outcomes effectively and efficiently.

Project Charter

A formal document that authorizes a project’s existence and gives the project manager the authority to use organizational resources.

Project Closure

The formal process of closing a project, completing any remaining deliverables, and obtaining stakeholder acceptance.

Project Closure Report

A document summarizing the project’s overall performance, outcomes, and lessons learned.

Project Governance

The framework and guidelines for decision-making, responsibility, and accountability within a project.

Project Initiation

The formal process of defining a new project, including its objectives, scope, purpose, quality, and feasibility.

Project Kickoff

A meeting that is held at the beginning of a project to communicate project goals, objectives, roles, and expectations to the team.

Project Life Cycle

A project management life cycle goes through a series of phases or stages, from initiating to planning, executing, and closing.

Project Plan

A formal document that outlines the scope, objectives, timelines, resources, approach to execution, etc., of a project. May also be called a project management plan.

Project Portfolio Management (PPM)

Centralized management of projects or programs to achieve strategic goals and objectives.

Project Schedule

Project schedules present a timeline that outlines the order and duration of project work packages and activities.

Project Sponsor

An individual or group with the authority to provide oversight, support, and resources for a project and advocate for its success.

Project Team

The individuals who are working together to achieve the project’s objectives.

Quality Assurance

Ensuring that project deliverables and processes meet the customer/client-specified quality standards.

Quality Control

The process of verifying that project deliverables meet the specified quality requirements.

Quality Management

The systematic activities and processes used to manage, maintain, and improve project quality.

RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consult, Inform) Matrix

A matrix that defines what individual or position is responsible and/or accountable for a specific task or activity, and what position or individual should be consulted or informed on the task or activity in a project.

RAID (Risks, Assumptions, Issues, Dependencies) Log 

A document that tracks and manages project risks, assumptions, issues, and dependencies.

Resource Allocation

Assigning and distributing resources to project individuals, work packages, and activities.

Resource Allocation Matrix (RAM)

A tool that articulates the management and optimizes the allocation of resources across project tasks (e.g., availability, skills, etc.).

Resource Leveling

The process of optimizing resource allocation to balance workloads and avoid overloading team members on a particular work package or activity.

Resource Management

The planning and managing of human, financial, and material resources for a project.

Resource Planning

Identifying and allocating the resources required to complete project activities.

Request for Proposal (RFP)

A formal solicitation of proposals from potential vendors or suppliers to support a project.

Request for Quotation (RFQ)

An official solicitation for a price quote on a specific product or service from potential vendors or suppliers for a project.

An evaluation of potential risks to a project, including their probability and impact.

Risk Management

The process of identifying, assessing, prioritizing, and mitigating project risks to increase the likelihood of project success through all phases of a project life cycle.

Risk Matrix

A visual tool that helps assess and prioritize risks based on their likelihood and impact.

Risk Mitigation

The process of implementing actions or strategies to reduce or eliminate the impact of an identified risk.

Risk Register

A document that captures information about identified risks, including their impact, probability, and mitigation plans.

Risk Response Plan

The planned actions and strategies to address identified project risks.

Risk Response Plan

The planned actions and strategies to address identified project risks.

Return on Investment (ROI)

A financial metric that is used to evaluate the financial return generated by an investment (i.e., a project).

Root Cause Analysis

The process of identifying and addressing underlying causes of a problem or issue in a project.

Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)

A framework for scaling Agile principles and methods for larger organizations and projects to meet the needs of the customer/client.

Scope

The defined boundaries and objectives of a project (i.e., what is and is not included).

Scope Creep

An uncontrolled or unauthorized expansion of the project’s scope, leading to potential delays in the project schedule and increased costs.

Scrum

A popular Agile framework that emphasizes collaboration, accountability, and iterative progress in project development.

Six Sigma

A disciplined, data-driven (i.e., quantitative) approach for eliminating defects and improving process quality.

Scrum Master

A leader, mentor, and coach who guides development teams in implementing Agile principles and practices to deliver value.

Slack Time

The amount of time that a task or activity can be delayed without impacting the project’s critical path.

SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) Goals

Aids in guiding project planning and execution to ensure success.

Statement of Work (SOW)

A customer/client-generated document that defines the scope, objectives, deliverables, and timelines for a project or contract with the work to be performed.

Sprint

In Agile project management, a timeboxed development cycle typically lasts two to four weeks. This is when work is performed to meet customer/client requirements.

Sprint Backlog

A prioritized list of tasks or user stories to be completed during a sprint.

Sprint Planning

A meeting that is held at the beginning of a sprint to define the sprint goal and plan the work to be completed. NOTE: The development team typically selects the work to accomplish during the sprint.

Sprint Review

A meeting that is held at the end of a sprint to review and demonstrate completed work to stakeholders.

Stage Gate

A project management process that divides a project into stages and gates, each with specific deliverables and approval points. Also known as Phase Gate.

Stakeholder

An individual, group, or organization with an interest or influence in a project or its outcomes. A Stakeholder can be internal or external to the project and organization.

Stakeholder Analysis

Identifying, assessing, and prioritizing stakeholders based on their interests, influence, and impact on the project.

Stakeholder Engagement

The process of involving stakeholders, understanding their needs, and addressing their concerns throughout the project.

Story Points

Relative units of measure are used in Agile project management to estimate the effort or complexity of a task or user story.

SWOT Analysis

An analysis of a project’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats to inform strategic planning.

Timeboxing

Allocating a fixed, predefined time period to a development activity or task is often used in Agile project management.

Time Management

The effective management of the schedule throughout the project life cycle (i.e., initiation, lanning, execution, and closing). It is also associated with the PMI knowledge area, Project Time Management, which provides a methodology, and recommends processes and procedure for managing the inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs of associated project management tools.

Top-Down Estimating

A project estimation technique that uses expert judgment and historical data to provide a high-level estimate. Typically accomplished without tactical-level employee involvement.

Triple Constraint

The interdependence of a project’s scope, time, and cost, with quality in the center; often depicted as a triangle to illustrate trade-offs. It is also known as the Iron Triangle.

User story

In Agile project management, a narrative that describes a specific feature or requirement from the end user’s perspective.

Value Stream Mapping

A visual tool used to analyze and optimize the steps and flow of material and information in a workflow process.

Velocity

In Agile project management, a measure of a team’s productivity based on completed work in a sprint (i.e., the amount of work a team can perform within a predetermined amount of time).

Waterfall

A traditional project management approach that follows a sequential, linear process from initiation through project closure.

Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

A hierarchical decomposition of all the work to be performed by the project team (i.e., the total scope of work).

Work in Progress (WIP)

Work package activities that are actively being worked on and need to be completed.

Work Package

A defined portion of work to be performed can be assigned to a team or individual for execution (e.g., purchasing and installing a garage door).

Work Stream

A group of related tasks or activities within a project, often aligned with specific goals or outcomes.

What Is Project Management Buzzwords?

The Project Management Buzzwords identified in this article are industry-specific terms that define concepts and serve as shorthand for how project managers and managers convey ideas, tools, or methods. In short, it’s the vernacular glue that holds project management together.

How Can Project Management Buzzwords Benefit You?

Understanding the essential buzzwords and phrases allows you to “talk the talk,” which offers credibility. Additionally, it provides a baseline understanding in which project teams and stakeholders can communicate. Without a knowledge of the foundational industry language, a project manager will likely find that they are at a distinct disadvantage.

Wrap Up

This article lists over 120 essential project management terms, which are necessary for a senior project manager to understand and use to convey complex ideas. Whether you are a newcomer or an experienced professional, you must be able to leverage this vocabulary to navigate the field both effectively and efficiently. While these terms ensure clear communication across teams, genuine expertise goes beyond language; it requires applying these concepts in practical scenarios to enable project progress.

Dr. Michael J. Shick, MSPM, PMP, CSM, founder of ROSEMET, is a combat-wounded warrior and retired senior military officer turned esteemed academic and project management expert. Holding a doctorate from Creighton University and serving as an Assistant Professor at Western Carolina University, Dr. Shick’s dedication goes beyond credentials, as he commits to empowering individuals and organizations toward project excellence. With an extensive military, academic, and project leadership background, he epitomizes resilience, expertise, and a steadfast devotion to fostering growth and success in others.

Disclaimer: The ideas, views, and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of International Institute for Learning or any entities they represent.

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