Jargon - now it's the turn of project managers to think the impenetrable

All professions are a conspiracy against the laity said Bernard Shaw. He was probably thinking of the jargon the legal profession uses to bewilder the layperson. The IT industry also has a lexicon of words and initials that seem thought up to exclude outsiders; and not everyone inside the computer-related professions will know what SOA means.

Now it’s the turn of the project management profession to commit heinous offences against clarity, dignified by being thought of as jargon. The following examples are taken from a single paper written for the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The paper goes as far as to say that “new thinking requires the development of new languages of project management”. No, please.

Some extracts from the paper:

“The impact of new thinking may be either to inform the managerial agenda of project control, or alternatively to support the emancipation of individuals from discourses of control.”

“Another development category is that of the oligarch – professionally competent but also able to view and possibly disregard the profession from the perspective of a socialised corporate elite.”

“Positivist need for definition and control of work.”

“The growth of project management is also driven by wider agenda, for example as a mode of corporate indoctrination – creation of elites and sub-elites – creating and assessing the managerial legitimacy of individuals.”

“Ontologies of ‘being’ – concerned with nouns, stability and structure.”

“Supplemented (not replaced) by ontologies of ‘becoming’, concerned with verbs and fluidity: for example, ontologies of language or of practice.”

“We should incorporate concepts of ‘virtue’ into the language of projects. The becoming ontology may be vulnerable to the fallacy of misplacing the absence of


“Projects as spaces: shifting boundaries of a multiple horizon.”

“Projects exist ‘out there’. ”

“Projects are socially constructed.”

“Positivist thinking and instrumental rationality of standard project models.”

“These models are a cause of false promises of success and control, and trap practitioners in social inaction.”

“Positivist plans are an essential component of project management, but should be treated as sub-ordinate to sensemaking, and social and political processes.”

“Reflection-in-action is a more appropriate model of project management practice.”

“Standard development practice is based on the learning of the mechanistic application of laws of business and work control.”

“Development for ‘professionals’ would incorporate decision competence and



One suggestion in the paper is that the “understanding of the language(s) of project management – existing and new – must be taken to a wider group than those who practice the mechanics of projects”.

We disagree. This sort of language should not be allowed to go anywhere, and especially not outside the electric fences of the project management compound.