AXELOS ProPath, the world's most powerful project, programme and portfolio best practice certifications

Three words to describe project management

Lynda Bourne
July 23, 2013

There has been an idea floating around in the blogosphere for a few years that re-surfaced recently in our ‘Weekly Tip’. The tip was to ‘Remember project management tasks in exactly three words’. The idea was inspired by a blog post by Dharmesh Shah called ‘Startup Advice in Exactly Three Words‘.

Shah’s triplets are succinct three-word mantras that apply to business startups and many more triplets have been added to by a wide range of people.

The tip, taken from ‘Lessons Learned in Project Management – 140 Tips in 140 Words or Less’, builds on from this concept: to frame many of the core ideas from the PMBOK® Guide in the same three-word (triplet) format and in the approximate order of working:


  • Develop the charter
  • Identify all stakeholders


  • Collect high-level requirements
  • Define the scope
  • Determine the budget
  • Prepare the schedule
  • Plan for quality
  • Build the team
  • Prepare a communication plan
  • Manage project risks
  • Plan project procurements

Executing, monitoring and controlling

  • Schedule weekly meetings
  • Assemble a steering committee
  • Keep monitoring risks
  • Ensure project quality
  • Recognise good work
  • Resolve issues quickly
  • Adjust plans accordingly
  • Communicate potential problems
  • Motivate the team


  • Close all contracts
  • Capture lessons learnt

While this is a fun concept, there is also a powerful lesson to be learned when developing process documentation. The PMBOK® Guide uses 589 pages to document the project management body of knowledge, whereas the list of triplets captures the essence of a project manager’s job in less than 500 characters. Which is more useful and which is likely to be remembered and used?

Processes embedded in ‘Standard Operating Procedures’ are a powerful way to achieve both efficiencies and quality but only if they are known to be available, remembered and used. Certainly, if you don’t know how to ‘Develop the charter’, access to more information is required to learn the process; if you know how to do it, all that is needed is a reminder to do the work.

So the question is: Are we making project management too complicated? What do you think? You may even want to add to the list of project management triplets above.

Lynda Bourne
Dr Lynda Bourne PMP, FAIM, is an international authority on stakeholder engagement and the Stakeholder Circle visualisation tool. She is the author of 'Making Projects Work' (2015), 'Advising Upwards: A Framework for Understanding and Engaging Senior Management Stakeholders' (2011), and 'Stakeholder Relationship Management' (2009) and a contributor to many others.
Read more

One thought on “Three words to describe project management

  1. I love this concept and this list. I am personally working on my project management skills, but also as a resume and LinkedIn profile writer, so I’ll be bookmarking this article! As for adding additional skills, I work with people who need to describe their own project management experience and I like that this list captures the skills and tasks needed across various disciplines. I don’t see anything that particularly jumps out at me to add; however, some language will likely vary or require clarification depending on if it is, say, a wetland project or a software product that needs managing! For example, monitoring risks when it comes to an environmental project does not have the same meaning as it does for a commercial product cycle.

Comments are closed.