Project Management Buzz words and Clichés

Clichés are cheating. If one summarizes an idea or a command in cute, “actionable” bits repeatedly, then one is failing to really communicate and is insulting one’s listeners. It may be hard to believe but the hackneyed, over-used buzzwords and clichés that are some manager’s mantras were not always subjects of distain and parody. In the beginning those terms had meaning. However through over-use and misuse, they became clichés.

Hearing the old and worn out, “Work smarter not harder” the other day in a motivational meeting, got me to thinking about words and phrases that have been driven to the point that they no longer have any meaning and actually make me angry. Using the phrase above, I ask myself, “What does the speaker believe I have been doing during my 12 hour days trying to meet an unrealistic schedule?” “Is he or she saying I am stupid?” “Do they have a clue what is required to solve this problem?”

All of that angst led me to create this list of project management buzzwords and clichés that set my teeth on edge. I offer these in the hope that you will remove them from your vocabulary as a regular diet.

  • Think out of the box
  • Synergy
  • Paradigm shift
  • Anything with “ize” at the end – productize, monetize, incentivize
  • Jumping the shark
  • Run it up the flagpole and see if someone salutes
  • Give 110%
  • Best of Breed
  • Blue Sky Thinking
  • State of the Art
  • Take ownership
  • The Big Picture
  • On the same page (or out of the same hymnal)
  • Mission Critical
  • Best (biggest) bang for the buck
  • Low hanging fruit
  • Bring me solutions, not problems
  • Walk the talk
  • Take ownership
  • Zero sum game – opposite of win-win situation
  • Team player
  • It’s a no-brainer
  • Get ahead of the curve

If you want even more examples checkout Seth Godin’s The Encyclopedia of Business Clichés.

The use of buzz words has reached such heights that a game has come about just for this.  Add some fun to any boring, buzzword-filled meeting by playing the game of Buzzword Bingo. Create a bingo card and take it with you to your next meeting. (Be subtle about this—not every manager has a sense of humor). Mark the buzzwords as you hear them. You do not actually win anything when you complete a row across, down or diagonally, but it helps pass the time. Here are some sites to help you get started:

Tom Terez has created a Buzzword Bingo card for a Better Workplace Now that changes each time you refresh the page—hours of fun here.
Business Buzzword Bingo by Karl Geiger’s generates bingo cards with the business buzzwords randomly distributed. His site also includes a nice history of the game’s birth and rebirth. And then there is Robie the Robot Buzzword Bingo Card Generator

Or, create your own buzzword bingo card by entering 25 buzzwords that are unique or favored by your organization also from Karl Geiger.

Do you have some buzzwords or clichés you would like to get off your chest? Add them to your comments, I am sure others will relate.

10 Responses to “Project Management Buzz words and Clichés”

  1. Karem McGraw Says:

    How about, “It is what it is…”?

  2. Shim Marom Says:

    Current project management buzz word: Project Management 2.0. It doesn’t really mean anything but everybody seem to want to talk about it.

  3. Joe Petrol Says:

    I liked your blog fearnoproject.com. I found your blog recently and was reading it for a few days. I appreciate your time and effort. Keep it that way.

  4. Kylie Stedman Gomes Says:

    I finished my (hopefully) last contract as a project manager in June last year, and this list of buzzwords STILL had me crying with laughter. Thank you. :-)

    But would you believe, I have NO idea what “Jumping the shark” is supposed to mean? The literal mental image is hilarious …

  5. Reflections on Fear No Project PM Blog « Fear No Project – A Project Management Blog Says:

    [...] Project Management Buzzwords and Clichés [...]

  6. Andy Zink Says:

    Jumping the shark is your last ditch effort. Its from Happy Days when Fonzi jumped the shark, marking the “end” of the show.

  7. Manage Better Now Says:

    I am ashamed to admit that I have played buzzword bingo on more than one occasion.

  8. Andy Says:

    Be careful of using these cliches especially with virtual team coming from all over the world because people from different part of the world may not understand them or worse may understand them differently.

  9. Dmitry Bogdanov Says:

    Nice list of PM quotes, thanks

  10. books unlimited Says:

    Very good info. Lucky me I came across your site by accident (stumbleupon).
    I have bookmarked it for later!


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