The Project Manager as Translator

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

I’m not really into plants. I mean, I know what I like and I enjoy that my wife has fruit and vegetable gardens as well as flowers in our yard, but that’s about as far as it goes. I leave the rest to her (she has always been pretty knowledgeable about plants, so it works well).

However, we’re currently building a new house and have just started looking at what the yard will look like. My wife contacted a local expert to talk about what would work, where best to plan certain things—and that’s where things started to get weird. The woman she contacted certainly knows her stuff, but she insists that everyone knows how much she knows. The most obvious way she does that is by insisting on referring to every plant by its scientific name. My wife may know a plantain from a mango, but she doesn’t know a Musa paradisiaca from a Mangifera indica—and she shouldn’t have to.

So why all this talk about plants? Well in projects, there tends to be a lot of the same sort of thing. Just think about building a project plan: We talk about FS, FF and SS dependencies, lead and lag, Gantt, PERT, critical path, WBS, and so on…I could fill an article with nothing but jargon. To anyone who isn’t directly involved in project management, this may as well be a foreign language, just like the scientific names for plants. We don’t need …

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