Project Management Jargon Buster

project management jargon

Whether you are a seasoned project manager or straight off an introductory project management training course, it’s always good to be reminded of project management jargon and what it means.

We all sometimes use jargon often without thinking whether others around us understand what we are talking about and maybe we don’t understand exactly what it means either!
So here’s a reminder of some of the most common PM terms that are relevant to all approaches whether you have studied the PRINCE2, PMI or APMP project management methodology, but remember to only use jargon if you are sure everyone has the same understanding of its meaning:


Baseline Plan

The definitive document showing the original schedule – this may be a Gantt Chart or something similar and will have deadlines and milestones marked on it. It is very likely to vary over time and require updating and there will be versions of it showing how the actual work is progressing compared to the baseline plan.

Closing Phase

This is where a project manager will compare reports, analysis and various other documents accumulated throughout the project and compare that information to the information on the original plan. This enables the project manager to understand if the budget was used effectively and managed intelligently, and to understand if the project was effective throughout.

Critical Path

These are important tasks that have a clear influence on the completion of the project. If the tasks are not completed by their set dates, the project will not finish on time.


A deadline relates to any task or assignment you have assigned a date to. The deadline is when the task or assignment needs to be completed by.

project management jargon buster

Fixed Duration, Fixed Units and Fixed Work

These are fairly explanatory terms but still confusing nonetheless if it’s the first time you have encountered them. Fixed duration means the task can only take a certain amount of time to complete, a fixed unit is where the units are fixed, and fixed work is where the work expected cannot be changed.

Free Slack

This is the amount of time around milestones or project deadlines that you are allowed to use as leeway. For example your project may need to be completed within 6 months but you have 2 weeks slack within that to work around.

Initiation Phase

This is the very beginning of a project and comes before the planning phase. During the initiation phase the project manager will establish the project goal and create a clear vision for the team. This is the part of the task when communications will be established and discussions will take place in order for the goal to be clearly determined before any work begins.

Master Project

This is a file that basically contains all the information about a project, and is used to control and manage various lesser projects.

Risk Management

This is where the project manager and their team evaluate all areas of the project in order to ascertain potential factors that may negatively impact the project. Risk factors will usually be categorised into low, medium and high risk with the priority risks being reported to senior management and stakeholders.

The team will seek to eradicate these risk factors or work to lower the risks considerably.