The true origin of project management nomenclature

Here’s a (lighter) take on the etymology of some of our common PM terms:

1. Milestone – originally “millstone”.  A large, heavy object used to grind resources that can also be used to defeat a project manager’s attempts to stay afloat.

2. Scope – short form for “endoscope“.  A tool used to look inside a customer’s body to identify what ails them.  Wielding scope  (also known as “scope control”) usually results in discomfort to the customer with monetary gains for the wielder.

3. Budget – from the old French word, Bougette – a purse.  Usually this purse’s strings are welded shut by your project sponsor.

4. Sponsor – the term originally signified an experienced individual that would guide you through a growth initiative such as a twelve-step program.  In recent years, the term has changed in to identify someone that is likely to put you into Alcoholics Anonymous.

5. Issue – The act or an instance of flowing, passing, or giving out.  The key definition to extract from that last sentence is the “the act of passing out” as that is applicable to a project manager that has logged one too many issues.

6. Monte Carlo simulation – Named in honor of the famous casino to warn practitioners that at some level, project planning is the same as gambling – once you think you’ve created a predictable plan for your project, you’ll usually go broke.

7. Critical Chain – The chains that were used to bind rowing slaves to their benches on merchant ships.

8. Progress – A Russian expendable freighter spacecraft.

9. Baseline – an imaginary line or standard by which things are measured or compared.

10. Stakeholders – The assistants that Dr. Helsing employed to hold the implements that were used to eliminate Count Dracula.

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