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Talking project management to non-project managers

Adeline Teoh ed.
January 19, 2016

When you’re immersed in a project it’s easy to speak ‘project’ all the time. Sometimes it takes a layperson to remind you of what it all means.

I went on holiday sightseeing in India with a tour group over the New Year break. One of the great things about meeting new people is getting to know them and in many cases one’s occupation will come up in conversation.

“I write about project management,” I elaborated, after mentioning that I write for a living. “What’s that?” asked my tour colleague. “It’s…”

To someone who knows nothing about project management, saying something like “a project is an initiative that delivers benefits to an organisation and project management is the practice of ensuring this is done in an efficient, effective and controlled manner” seems a little over the top. I had to break it down to the simplest possible concept.

It got me thinking about how you describe what you do to non-project managers. Of course, the way you describe your role will depend on context, for example whether the non-project manager is a colleague who has been assigned to support you but knows nothing about projects versus your five-year-old daughter.

But breaking out of industry-speak will actually help you nail what it is you’re trying to do and how all the parts of a project work to deliver what you’re supposed to deliver.

One excellent example of this is Up Goer Five, an illustration of a space shuttle that explains parts and functions of the vehicle using only the most common 1000 words.

When we simplify things we clarify its purpose. All the ancillary jargon can still exist in the details as necessary but the message is more accessible, easier to digest and carry through the project.

Can you explain your project using only the most common 1000 words?

Adeline Teoh ed.
Adeline Teoh is the editor of She has more than a decade of publishing experience in the fields of business and education, and has specialised in writing about project management since 2007.
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