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Common Language is the Key to Project Management

Imagine being asked to help on a project but not knowing the language of the country. You wouldn’t get far and you would most likely have raised eyebrows. All you could do was point and smile. It is not the same as speaking the same language. Project managers will tell you that project-speak is a different language. Communicating what you mean in business, whether in Singapore or Stockholm is crucial to completing a project within budget and on time.
Global business culture has created a new language of project-speak that you can hear in boardrooms all over the world. To maintain your competitive edge, my advice is to quickly learn the language of your field.
The more complex a field is, the more terms you will need to use it. Over three decades of experience working with project managers in cities such as Shanghai, Stuttgart, and Salt Lake City, I’ve seen the rise in new terminology in project management. There were just over 1,600 terms back in the 90s. Now there are over 3,400. Globalization is expanding markets and the language needed to keep up with it is increasing. It is just as important to be clear about what you are saying as how you say it.
Let’s look at the term “drill down”. It is the act of looking for oil beneath the Earth’s surface, as used in the oil industry. It is actually the act of changing from a summary view of data to a lower level. You would want to be able to tell the difference while working on an oil rig in North Sea.
You might also consider “unk-unks?”. It’s not a Bali starling mating call. It is a risk management term that refers to unknown unknowns (risks that cannot be predicted). ?Pounds of flesh? Another favorite, eliciting scenes out of your favorite horror movie. It means that you will have to pay someone back for doing something for your project. Language is crucial in project management, aside from the obvious hard skills. Projects are people.
Globalization and cross-functional project activity have created an international business culture. Global managers tend to be highly educated and well-credentialed professionals who can read the same business books and listen to the same lecturers on different topics. It is important to learn the language so that you can understand what others are saying when you are in meetings, working on projects, or participating in any other business activity. Perhaps even more important, they will understand you when it’s your turn to speak out.