Published here April 2013


Musings Index

Having Trouble with the Latest PM Lingo?

Useful new project management acronyms

Although no longer an active project manager, I like to keep in touch with what is going on in the PM world and especially the latest trends and what people are thinking. Participation in various LinkedIn discussion groups has helped considerably where there is a lot of chatter. Some of it is inspiring, some of it just innocent ignorance.

But did you just notice? I used the term "PM". So what does that mean - "Project Manager" or "Project Management"? Most of the time you can tell by the context, but many times you cannot, especially in a long discussion thread. But perhaps in this case I really meant the (project) "Portfolio Management" world. Then there's "PMO". Does that stand for "Project Management Office" or "Program Management Office"?

The Project Management Institute ("PMI") has recognized this problem by adopting the short form "PgM" to represent "Program Management" (as distinct from "Project Management"). Definitely a brilliant step forward and I really like it. But why stop there? Indeed, Stacey Goff, representing the International Project Management Association (IPMA) has been using the short form "PfM" to represent "Project Portfolio Management" for some time.

Obviously, we have a trend starting here, so let's go further. What we have now is:

  • Pg for Program and
  • PfM for Project Portfolio Management, that is to say:
  • Pf for Portfolio. So why not:
  • Pj for project? And hence
  • PjM for Project Management

This way, at least there will not be the confusion as to whether PM stands for Project Management or Project Manager.

Similarly, we can avoid the confusion with PO. Does that mean Project Office or Program Office (Or for that matter, Purchase Order, or even Post Office!)? No, let's make that:

  • PgO for Program Office and
  • PjO for Project Office.

And now looming on the horizon is the issue of "Governance". Straight away we can avoid any misunderstandings by adopting the following:

  • PjG for Project Governance
  • PgG for Project Program Governance, and
  • PfG for Project Portfolio Governance.

By the way, these three are not the same!

Governance versus Management

Speaking of Governance, there has been some discussion lately, especially amongst ISO[1] aficionados as to where the boundaries lie between "Project Governance" and "Project Management" - that is to say the difference between "Governance" and "Management" in the project context.

In my view it is simple (I like things being simple.)

Project Management is defined by PMI very simply as:

"The application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet project requirements."[2]

Project Governance is defined by PMI as:

"The alignment of project objectives with the strategy of the larger organization by the project sponsor and project team. A project's governance is defined by and is required to fit within the larger context of the program or organization sponsoring it, but is separate from organizational governance."[3]

Neither of these definitions speaks to the issue of "control" but control is clearly implied.

Therefore, from the perspective of a project manager (or any other level in the hierarchy for that matter):

  • "Management" is what you do with the people working for you.
  • "Governance" is what the people you work for expect of you.

On this basis, one person's governance is another person's management.

1. ISO refers to the International Organization for Standardization. ISO, as you can see, is not an acronym, at least not in any official language. If they can be creative with the alphabet, why can't we?
2. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, Project Management Institute, Pennsylvania, USA, 5th Edition, 2013.
3. Ibid.
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