Looking for project management slang

Some professions have all kinds of fun slang for what goes on at work. Waiters call being behind “In the Weeds”. Fighter pilots call targets “bogeys”. What about project managers? Do we have any slang?

Over on pmclinic, we’re looking this week for slang words you’ve used, or have heard, regarding projects. Any kind of project will do.

And if you can’t think of any, I’m happy to hear suggestions for new slang we should put into use.

Slang I’ve heard or used:

Slip: to have to add more time to the schedule.

Schedule chicken: when two teams on the same project bet the other will have to slip their schedule first first.

Run up that hill: to follow a line of thinking for due diligence even if you suspect it won’t lead anywhere for political/bureaucratic illness. “You can run up that hill if you want to, but I’m not mentioning the idea to Fred.”

Crawl. Walk. Run: to plan to do something that barely works on purpose, building it over time into something better.

26 Responses to “Looking for project management slang”

  1. Jimbo

    Mocks – Short for mock-ups or screenshot style prototypes of a design.

  2. mitchitized

    Ready, fire, aim: Pretty self-explanatory, ain’t it?

    Coconut shuffle: Moving tasks around to deal with resource and staffing issues.

    Mitchy2008™: That’s the project management software I use, comes on paper and can be organized on a wall or a table in no time. Very resistant to network and hardware failures, although sensitive to coffee and italian food. Will migrate to Mitchy2009™ in January.

    “Lugubrious”: You use this word in a random, innocuous reference, which is code for “this person is insane, please ignore their comments and make sure they are not invited to the next planning meeting.”

    Enterprise phase: When a project goes into enterprise phase, it is never expected to reach a conclusion.

    Gannt flotsam: Tasks orphaned in rapid planning process, usually necessitated by huge changes in available budget, resources or time.

    Some of these I have overheard and others of course I made up. But all have been used in different teams, on different projects and within different companies.

  3. M.

    TSMH (Then Somthing Magical Happens): Code for “something needs to happen at this point, but we’re not exactly sure what right now. It might be hard … we’re just not sure.”

    1. Erik Eckhardt

      This reminds me of a similar concept in science, where explaining a process: “M.O.” (here, a Miracle Occurs).

  4. Mike

    “An event (fatal bug) in software that causes the application to be unusable/crash/hang completely.”

    The word used in this context is actually the opposite meaning of its original definition that originated on Broadway: “an act, song, or performer that wins applause so prolonged as to interrupt a performance”.

    Analysis – Paralysis:
    When too much discussion about a product/project kills productivity.

    Cheers, Mike

  5. Imran

    Scope creep – When the client covertly increases the scope of the project without any discussion

  6. Jeremy

    How about “Herding Cats”?

    Commonly used when trying to get graphic designers and software developers on the same side of the table, in order to complete an urgent website project.

  7. Justin

    Bear Race: When multiple teams are all running late, but refuse to admit it to the client. The first one who has to fess up to the client loses, and is eaten by the bear. All the other teams gain a brief reprieve from being chased by the bear.

    See also: schedule chicken.

  8. Claire Giordano

    Eat your own dog food Using your product in-house before delivering it to customers in alpha or beta.

  9. Dwayne Phillips

    Programmatics – all the numbers, statistics, plans, PowerPoint charts you can create – some of them actually have a bearing on the project, but most don’t.

    Baseline (verb) – finally decide what it is you are going to do.

    TEM (noun) (Rhymes with Tim) Technical Exchange Meeting or The Engineer’s Meeting, a meeting where you solve a problem.

    TEM (verb) (Rhymes with Tim), as in “let’s TEM it” meaning “let’s have a meeting later where we solve this problem. Let’s just note it for now.”

  10. Trena

    Huge fan of “herding cats”, though I’m going to work “TSMH” into my next document just to see who actually reads those things. ;)

  11. mpg

    “to the right” – adjusting schedules to move things to be later in time, i.e. further over on the gantt chart. Example: “The frobnitz is turning out to be harder than we thought, let’s move that release to the right one quarter.”

    “scrub” – to thoroughly review and clean out old data, specifically a backlog of bug reports (originally database slang?)

    “OBE” – abbr. for “overcome by events”; adjective describing a bug report, work item, feature request, etc, that is no longer relevant. Example: “Since the frobniz feature is no longer being supported, those bugs filed against it are pretty much OBE.”

    “AR” – abbr. for “action required”; noun used to identify a work item assigned to someone; may be specific to Intel, circa 1990’s. Example: “Bob, you’ve got the AR to scrub the bug database and close out anything you find that’s OBE.”

  12. Pat

    Triple D – Dollars, Date, Deliverables. e.g whats the Triple D on this project ?

  13. Ben Buchanan

    One useful one is the “parking lot” – a list of things too good/important to just ignore or forget, but not relevant to the current meeting or not currently in scope. “That’s a great idea, but it doesn’t effect [whatever you’re trying to resolve in the current meeting] – let’s put it in the parking lot.” It’s a good way to stop meetings getting sidetracked from their actual aim. Assuming of course that you ever go back and review what’s in the parking lot ;)

  14. Warren

    “I have an ask” – garbling the English language in a feeble attempt, for some unknown reason, to reinvent saying “I have something I want to ask you to do”. All the rage at our company now.

  15. Scott

    Warren: Yes! I hate that one too. Around the time I left Microsoft (2003) it became popular in some groups to say that. I wanted to smack people when they said it – clearly some VP or someone of influence started using it one day and it spread for no good reason.

    But maybe I’m just old and cranky – I bet half the vocabulary I use made the managers who came before me just as cranky when it entered popular use :)

  16. Cior

    “You can’t fake awesome.”

    It’s an expression. Inspired by heady SF Marina frat guys, this is the term you use to describe all the good work that gets done, but is barely recognized by others.

  17. Alex

    “I gotta jam on this” – I need to get working on the project because i’ve been slacking for the past hour.

  18. Faggot11

    You learn this early in journalism school or any feature writing class – never, ever, ever lead with a question the reader can answer No to. ,

  19. Joe

    At a project managment meeting planning for implementation of a project, technical personnel used the phrase “Parking Lot Discussions” and then listed topics under that title that were assigned to individuals to follow through. Any idea why they used that phrase…does it imply discussions/topics that will be discussed later, offsite as if in the parking lot?

  20. Dan S

    How easy would it be to….
    It’s a slam dunk

    Is it done?
    Except for a few anomalies
    When will it be done done?
    Real soon now

  21. Sean

    Lessons Learned – a fictitious process that PMs are encouraged to do at the end of the project that most PMs never actually do because the politics and bureaucracy of the team could never allow any of these learned lessons to be effected.

  22. Tushar

    Hi, Thank you for telling about this slang now it will be easier for me to understand what my project manager is talking about.


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