Top 10 Terms Used By Project Managers [video blog]

by Jennifer Bridges, PMP (formerly, Jennifer Whitt)

Well, welcome to our whiteboard session today on terms that project managers use. Today I’m going to talk about my top 10, and hopefully they’ll be helpful. I want to point you to a resource that I think is very helpful. This is the “Guide to Project Management Body of Knowledge” by PMI, the Project Management Institute. There are other resources out there. You can certainly Google some of these terms too, but it’s important coming into project management, whether you’re new to project management coming in or maybe you’re on and off as the project manager, there are several terms that project managers use. Again this is not the end all be all. These are just some common terms that sometimes get twisted and misused sometimes. So I want to clarify some of these.

The first one is you may hear is WBS. When I came on board as a project manager, I thought, what in the world is that, a WBS. Some people call them the Wibis. I’m like, what’s a Wibis or WBS. It’s actually a work breakdown structure. A work breakdown structure is hierarchical, and it breaks down the work. It’s deliverables oriented. It really defines the scope of the project. The work breakdown structure keeps breaking different components down to show all the work again that produces deliverables and in essence is the total scope of the project.

Number two is a milestone. You hear different milestones. You hear different points on the schedule. This is a significant point and time or event that’s on your schedule. Sometimes you’ll see them marked as like a black diamond, and again that indicates a milestone on your project. Sometimes a good best practice for project managers is once you hit a milestone on time, that’s a great cause for celebration. I always use those to celebrate something significant being done.

Number three is a baseline. This to me is where a project can become a failed project or a successful project, because in the beginning of the project it’s important to once the plan is approved by the Change Control Board is to baseline it. So you’re, in essence, approving the plan, the project plan, which also includes the project schedule. What happens is during the project, of course, changes are always going to occur, changes to the time, the scope, the budget, and the quality. As long as you take those changes to a CCB, which we’ll talk about later, to get approved, then they’re giving you approval to re-baseline the project, and that’s approval to make changes. If your schedule is elongated, maybe it’s delayed for some time, if you get the appropriate approval and re-baseline, to me that again is the difference between a failed or successful project, so very important.

The other is a triple constraint. The little twist about a triple constraint is there are four components of the triple constraint. It’s usually indicated by a triangle. So it’s balancing the time, the cost, the scope, and the quality of your project. So, with the triple constraint, these things occur, specifically around changes. The time, if you increase the time, it might and will impact at least one of these other components. It’s always managing these things so you keep your project on track. These things are the things that you look at when you take things to the CCB, your Change Control Board.

Number five is a project life cycle. There are many different types of project life cycles. This is a single phase life cycle. This is the one indicated by PMI, the Project Management Institute. Again, it’s a single phase. They are initiating processes that occur, that feed the planning processes and at the same time. Once your project begins executing, the executing processes, monitoring and controlling processes begin to occur throughout the project. Once the project is completed, you hit your closing processes. That is a project life cycle:  initiating, planning, monitoring, controlling, executing. and closing the project.

Number six is a Gantt chart. A Gantt chart is a tool. It’s a graphical display of the schedule information. If you look at your work breakdown structure, in your tool that you use, you can look at your work breakdown structure. It includes dates and durations for tasks to be completed or deliverables to be produced.

Then the CCB. When I came on board as a project manager, I kept hearing about a CCB. I thought, what is a CCB? It stands for the Change Control Board. The Change Control Board is a group of stakeholders. It’s not all of the stakeholders. It’s representatives from the stakeholder groups. They are on your board. They’re the people who are designated in your project plan, who are the people with the authority to make approval or denials for things. They review changes. They evaluate them. They approve them. They delay them or reject changes on your project. These are the people with the authority. What I love about this is it takes the pressure off of project managers. I see many times where project managers try to take upon themselves to make these decisions. It’s not for the project manager to make. It’s for the project manager to have the processes in place, get the processes in place for the changes to be fed to the Change Control Board and really facilitate that process. Again, it’s the CCB’s responsibility for making those decisions.

Then the stakeholders, again. So who is a stakeholder? The stakeholders include people or organizations. It could be your customers. It could be your clients. It could be your vendor partners. It could be different organizations, and they’re actively involved. It’s important that they’re actively involved and they interact and may be positive or negatively affected by the execution of the project. They have a vested interest. These people who are deemed the stakeholders, again, they’re engaged in something that’s being done on the project. It’s usually to assist them with something that they need, and they certainly don’t want any negative impacts.

The other one is change management. Many times there is confusion on managing change and change management. They sound similar, but change management is about . . . it’s a project management plan, so it includes the processes on who does what, when, and where related to the changes on the projects. This project management plan is to control the scope versus managing change. It’s typically associated with managing change of a project. A project is initiated or executed, and it’s going to infiltrate different organizations or groups of the corporation, and that change is going to have some trigger emotional behaviors of the company. There are many organizations that focus on managing the change, and they come in and help the organizations do the communications, the planning for the people so that it doesn’t cause mass chaos when that project is implemented .

Risk mitigation versus risk management, so again like risk management is the plan. Risk mitigation is important because it’s different than risk identification. It’s important to identify risk. People on the project sometimes are really good about identifying risk, specifically at the beginning of the project, but it’s important to identify those all along the way. More importantly is not just identifying the risk, but coming up with a mitigation strategy. The risk mitigation is about building a risk response. It’s a risk response planning technique associated with threats to the project. If these risks that are identified occur, you need to know, like, what happens next. So if you just identify them and then those threats do occur on the project, then you’re like, oh no, if you don’t have the mitigation strategy and this occurs, then it just takes up time. It can cause a failed project by taking too much time or you’re not prepared. Maybe you need specific resources. Maybe you need specific equipment or something that is not easy to access. So to have that in place to know how to do that, but the idea is to reduce the probability of that risk occurring or reducing the impact if it does occur.

To me, these are some of the top 10 to know and know the differences between and help you in your project coming on board as a project manager.

If you found these tips from Jennifer Whitt, PMP of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in her self-paced, downloadable courses at


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