Common tongue


Introducing a corporate-wide project management methodology in organizations with distributed project management offices (PMOs) can be a daunting task. It's further complicated by the fact that some PMOs are more mature than others.

PMO staff members may have diverse backgrounds and exposure to different work cultures, along with varied project management qualifications. For example, a global telecommunications organization might have a PMO staffed with project managers from construction and IT. Another PMO might have staff members who hail from countries in which organizations are just now adopting standardized project management practices.

Whatever the PMO make-up, getting the project community to speak the same language is an essential step that needs to happen before teams embark on new projects. Using a common language minimizes miscommunication and helps the team feel cohesive.

Enormous variances in the project management vocabulary give rise to numerous project dialects, which can hinder the progress of projects. For instance, PMO staff members have different views on what the first stage of the project cycle should be called. Is it “definition,” “identification,” “initiation” or something else? Differing words for a project cycle may not seem like a huge obstacle, but consider how the lack of consistent vocabulary and definition could impact a conversation about risks, issues, assumptions or dependencies.


Leaders charged with standardizing project management practices, such as those at the enterprise PMO or a center of project excellence, have to think carefully about how to adopt a single project dialect across distributed PMOs.

One way to accomplish this is to devise training programs that focus on specific project competencies required by the organization. The training material can be based on standardized approaches such as those found in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)—Fifth Edition.

This material is a great starting place to create a single project vocabulary based on the company's culture, and integrate it with the company's support processes, such as finance, procurement, human resources and other departments.

Staff members who attend training programs should also complete a formal evaluation, whether through an exam, group projects, presentations, peer-to-peer evaluations or subordinate reviews. This helps PMO staff members swiftly apply the vocabulary and concepts they learn and underscores the need to get these lessons into practice. As an incentive for employees to learn the company's common project language, the organization could certify those who pass the courses to engage in project work at higher levels.

An education regimen such as the one described above goes a long way to ensuring that all of the PMOs in the company adopt the same project dialect. This reduces gaps in project communication, assists in the comprehension of information and improves project success. PM



Abid Mustafa is a director of corporate programs for Du Telecoms, a telecom operator in the United Arab Emirates.