The Devil’s Dictionary of Project Management Terms


By Crispin ‘Kik’ Piney



Originally published in 1906, The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce offered cynical definitions of terms of the “political” language of the period. This posting attempts to provide similar “helpful” definitions of project management-related terms.

Activity schedule A well-determined project timetable during which nothing you expected will probably occur
Agile development approach A palliative to keep the stakeholders patient during an extended trial-and-error exercise in the same way that tapas can be served as a way of making customers feel that a collection of snacks is equivalent to a real meal.
Agile Project Management A set of software product development principles based on good fellowship and poor governance.
Benchmarking A means of comparison with other companies, designed either to comfort your company in its mediocrity or to lord it over your colleagues for theirs
Body of knowledge The basis on which many standards are based. The challenge is to know when a body part is from a valuable discovery, from a sacred cow, or from a plague-pit.
Checklist A method of reviewing using ticks. A tick is a bloodsucking mite that can act as vector of disease. This is why you should be very careful to check on the originator of the list (whence its name, of course).
Chicken or egg situation At least in projects, this is a false dichotomy linked to gender confusion: most projects start as a monster cock-up, and at the end everyone gets egg on their face.
Consensus The process of gaining agreement by lowering everyone’s expectations until they match the average level of knowledge of the participants. Since this process discourages the participation of experts and encourages the masses, the average tends to reduce over time, with a predictable feedback effect. This is a favourite approach for politicians to ensure re-election but should be avoided in situations where the result is important such as medicine, wine-making and cookery.
Continuous improvement Policy of perpetually moving the goalposts in order to explain why the situation never seems to change.
Cost Performance Index A number inversely proportional to the size of begging bowl required by the project manager. See also “Schedule Performance Index”


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About the Author

Crispin (Kik) Piney

South of France



After many years managing international IT projects within large corporations, Crispin (“Kik”) Piney, B.Sc., PgMP is now a freelance project management consultant based in the South of France. At present, his main areas of focus are risk management, integrated Portfolio, Program and Project management, scope management and organizational maturity, as well as time and cost control. He has developed advanced training courses on these topics, which he delivers in English and in French to international audiences from various industries. In the consultancy area, he has developed and delivered a practical project management maturity analysis and action-planning consultancy package.

Kik has carried out work for PMI on the first Edition of the Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3™) as well as participating actively in fourth edition of the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge and was also vice-chairman of the Translation Verification Committee for the Third Edition. He was a significant contributor to the second edition of both PMI’s Standard for Program Management as well as the Standard for Portfolio Management. In 2008, he was the first person in France to receive PMI’s PgMP® credential; he was also the first recipient in France of the PfMP® credential. He is co-author of PMI’s Practice Standard for Risk Management. He collaborates with David Hillson (the “Risk Doctor”) by translating his monthly risk briefings into French. He has presented at a number of recent PMI conferences and published formal papers.

Kik Piney can be contacted at [email protected]

To view other works by Kik Piney, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/crispin-kik-piney/