The Curse of Project Management Knowledge


When Harry Hall at PM South refers to the “curse” of PM knowledge, he is really referring to the curse of Bla-BlaBla. The cuse of Bla-BlaBla was laid on unwary project managers long ago as they sought to achieve a perfect state of terminology and consistency across all project teams. Unfortunately, in their arrogance and self-assigned genius, the PMs of old overlooked a simple axiom of good communication that could have saved them. Perhaps it can still save you.

The Elixir

This elixir of knowledge sharing among project staff is known by many names. It is often called KISS – no, not the 70s hard rock band from New York City, the acronym Keep it Simple Silly (some use ‘Stupid’ or ‘Sally’, but let’s be nice and leave poor Sally alone). Despite being true and accurate, this acronym often oversimplifies the nuances involved in breaking the curse of Bla-BlaBla. Here follows some further treatment based on Hall’s advice.

Avoiding Folly

Impressing others with acronyms is sure to bring about the curse. Keep your language simple without “dumbing down” the information. Also, don’t assume that the individual understands you just because they’re nodding the affirmative. Ask them to reiterate what was just spoken to ensure that it was not Bla. To carry this logic further, why not get to know your entire project team better? This way you’ll discover their knowledge level and communication style in advance. The first step is always prevention.

The Right Words

Anchor your concepts in real world examples. Use pictures and diagrams – anything to relate the Bla in terms they can understand. Speaking of “terms they can understand,” it always pays to ask the group which terms they prefer and to use them in place of your own. Better still, weave stories that are instructional and provide useful context by unpacking concepts and processes more intuitively.

Tools and Practices

When words aren’t enough to ward off the specter of Bla, we can turn to the glossary. The glossary should appear in project planning documents for quick reference to terms and procedures. From the opposite end, use employee training to bring your team closer to the ideal level of understanding. Through these practices, and the fundamental elixir of KISS, you should never again fear the curse of project management.

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About Author

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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