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How Project Managers Say Things: Top 5 Buzzwords of the Day

written by: Misty Faucheux • edited by: Ronda Bowen • updated: 6/30/2013

Buzzwords - we hear them every day. But, oftentimes, we have NO idea what the project manager is referring to. So, to help you navigate industry lingo, here's our list of the top five project management buzzwords that you might encounter.

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    What's the Buzz?

    Depending on your view of buzzwords, hearing project management buzzwords can do two things to most people: inspire them or cause them to get really angry. Buzzwords often come to be used as short-cuts for something or another. But sometimes it can be hard to understand what a person is referencing, especially if you’re new to the project management business. So, here are the explanations of the top five most popular project management buzzwords.

    Paradigm Shift: This term was originally created by Thomas Kuhn in his The Structure of Scientific Revolution, and he only meant it to be applied to the hard sciences. He argued that scientific advancement comes from a “series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions" in which one view is replaced by another.

    The modern take of paradigm shift is basically to replace one way of thinking with another. Paradigm shifts in project management are more often seen in change management, where one method is replaced by another.

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    Mission Critical: The mission critical refers to any part of a project that cannot be eliminated. Oftentimes certain tasks need to be completed on time for the project to keep moving forward. Some other tasks, however, can be put off until a later date. This type of scenario can be seen in critical chain management.

    Source: Basically, if something is mission critical, it’s one of those tasks that cannot be skipped or put off. It must be completed, or the project won’t be completed on time.

    Jumping the Shark: This term was originally used in the television industry to mark a point where a show became very unrealistic--specifically, when Fonzie jumped over a shark on the TV show Happy Days. Jumping the shark today, however, means any point where a once successful project has taken a turn for the worst.

    Anything can be considered jumping the shark if it’s no longer successful, including a task, the project as a whole or even certain members of the team, especially the project manager.

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    Synergy: Synergy comes from a Greek word. It means that two different things can work together to produce a successful outcome. Perhaps synergy can best be seen in scrum teams.

    Basically, teams are working on different parts of the project in perhaps different parts of the world. But, these incongruous and often disconnected parts come together to create a working product. Scrum meetings assist with different teams being on the same page (another project management favorite buzzword).

    Zero Sum Game: Zero sum game comes from game and economic theory. This means that a person’s gains and losses are matched by his opponent's gains and losses. Basically, there are no gains or losses.

    Game Theory is often used in project management. The goals are to keep the project moving forward and the team players motivated. Using game theory allows project managers to negotiate. Some tasks may be ahead of schedule and some behind. But the goal is to take these two conflicting issues and to negotiate and arrange all the tasks so that eventually the product is done on time.

    So, what are your favorite or most dreaded project management buzzwords? Put them in the comments below and share your thoughts!