Project Management Terms for Team Leaders

Confused by Project Management terms? You’re not alone! 

PRINCE2, NVP, Analogous Estimating etc. It’s all so baffling. So we have made it easy for all you Team Leaders and Managers out there who are running projects and brought you a list of what we think are the key PM terms you should know.

The terms that will be covered are:

  • Work Breakdown Structure
  • Stakeholder
  • Project Sponsor
  • Six Sigma
  • Project Scope Creep
  • Risk Management Process
  • Gantt Chart
  • Brainstorming
  • Baseline
  • Quality Management Plan

Work Breakdown Structure

Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) defines the work that is mandatory to produce the end goal of the project. First, you need to identify the work that needs to be delivered, which is known as the deliverables (this includes the project scope). The deliverables are then broken down into various levels of tasks that are manageable and that can be scheduled, cost and assigned resources. Using this method allows you to break down a project into more manageable chunks to then delegate to the project team.

Some aspects to note before you start:

  • Decide if your project will be process or product orientated.
  • Check that there is no overlap between elements as it can create confusion.
  • Allocate your resources and pay attention to how they are being used in later stages so you can identify any unexpected errors or delays.
  • A good WBS needs input from all those involved in the project, so all elements are planned.

The WBS allows all those involved in the project to have a holistic view, and understand their impact on the project.


Stakeholder is a person, group or organisation that has interest or concerns in the business. This person(s) can affect and be affected by the business’s actions, objectives and policies. The Stakeholders should not be confused with Shareholders, who is a person who has purchased a share in a company, for instance, own equity in the company.

There are 3 types of Stakeholders: Primary, Secondary and Excluded. Primary Stakeholders tend to be internal and engage in the economic transactions of the company. For example, suppliers, employees and customers. Secondary are external and are affected by the company’s actions i.e. public, community, media, business support groups. Excluded are those who don’t have any economic impact on the business.

It is important to identify your Stakeholders at the start of a project because you need to create a strategy in managing, communicating and involving them in the project. This step is key as projects can be completed but not successful if the Stakeholders are not happy.

Six Sigma

Six Sigma is concerned with improving the quality of goods/services an organisation produces by minimising the variation in the production process. Defective products are produced when the production line lacks stability and varies in consistency.

Improving the process is done using the DMAIC model (Defining, Measuring, Analysing, Improving and Controlling):

  • Define: define the problem and how it is affecting your current process.
  • Measure: measure your data, by doing this you will be able to understand what parts are working and what is not. Therefore you can identify what needs to change.
  • Analyse: analyse the data that you have measured, to see what needs improvements.
  • Improvements: Take what needs to be improved and come up with solutions. Test out your ideas and revise as necessary.
  • Control: Once you have completed the process you will need to review over time to ensure the most efficient method is being used.

Applying this model to an inconsistent process can decrease the variance and increase the quality of goods/services.

Project Sponsor

The Project Sponsor is an individual (often a manager) with the overall accountability for the project. This person is responsible for ensuring that the project delivers the agreed business goals and objectives. The Project Sponsor is important to the project as they are vital to the leadership of the team through acting as a champion for the project, selling, and marketing of the project.

Typically the project sponsor is responsible for: ensuring that the business needs are correctly prioritised; ensure that the project remains a viable business proposition; ensure that changes and risk are properly managed; resolving issues beyond the control of the PM and the overall quality of the project.

Project Scope Creep

Project Scope Creep is where the project experiences uncontrolled growth beyond the initial expectations of what is to be delivered. This affects requirements, resources and timescales.

Project Scope Creep is likely to happen at some point to every project, therefore being prepared is key to manage this successfully. Scope Creep can occur for many reasons, such as:

  • The team considers all feedback and tries to do everything.
  • You have several Stakeholders, each with different views and opinions on what should be included and happen.
  • The external market changes, this is beyond your control and you have to respond accordingly to remain competitive.
  • You have not created a good first plan (Project Scope), and many changes are required throughout the project.
  • Changes to a project are expected, but don’t let scope creep become out of control.
  • The uncontrolled growth of the project scope resulting from constant changes to requirements without consideration to the impact on resources or timescale.

Risk Management Process

Risk Management is the forecasting and evaluation of the risk that is associated with a project together with the identification of the procedures to avoid or minimise its effect on the project. Organisations can use the Risk Management Process, which is a basic five-step process designed to manage the risk of a project.

  • Step 1 Identify the Risk: Firstly, you should identify the risks that you are exposed to in the environment that you are operating. Risks can include: legal, environmental, market, etc.
  • Step 2 Analyse the Risk: Once the risk has been identified, it then needs to be analysed and categorised into levels of seriousness and severity. It is also important to understand the link between the risk and the organisation.
  • Step 3 Evaluate or Rank the Risk: Once the Risk has been analysed, you need to rank the risk. This is an important step as it allows the organisation to view all of the risk exposure.
  • Step 4 Treat the Risk: All risk needs to be eliminated or minimised as much as possible. This is done by working with the relevant teams to which the risk belongs to. This requires to you contact each Stakeholder to arrange meetings so the issues can be discussed and a plan of action can be determined.
  • Step 5 Monitor and Review the Risk: It is important to remember that not all risk can be removed, e.g. market and environmental risks. It is therefore crucial that the risk is monitored throughout the whole project to ensure minimal disruption.

Gantt Charts

Gantt Charts are used in project planning as a visual timeline that explains the WBS of tasks, duration, resources, dependencies and the relationships between each task, as well as project data. This visualisation gives you a full view of the project over time.

Benefits of using a Gantt Chart includes connections between tasks, viewing the vertical “today” line, your team can view the project as a whole and understand its effect on the project on a whole.


Brainstorming is where project team members will hold a group discussion to generate ideas regarding the project. This can be used to gather data and creative techniques that can be used to identify risk, ideas, and solutions. 

When conducting a brainstorming session, all participant ideas are recorded and analysed later.


In Project Management there are 3 types of Baseline: schedule baseline; cost baseline and scope baseline. All three of these make up the performance measurement baseline.

baseline is a fixed schedule which represents the standard that is used to measure the performance of the project. Making the baseline is normally associated with the end of the project planning process.

Creating the baseline will include input from the work-breakdown structure (WBS), project scope, risk management etc. Whenever changes to the project take place, a new revision of the baseline is created so that you can track changes to the project. Project Managers need to track the progress of the task, cost, and time against the baseline to give status reports and assess the earned value.

Quality Management Plan

Quality Management Plan is a document used in ISO 9001 which states the process of quality relating to a business or a project. This plan sets out the company’s method and means of ensuring quality in what is being carried out. It states the acceptable level of quality, which has been defined by the customers and describes how the project will meet this level.

Benefits of using a Quality Plan are:

  • Increase in confidence that the requirements will be fulfilled to a minimum quality standard.
  • The project team are in control of the process.
  • Insight into new opportunities.

Although there are many more terms in the Project Management dictionary, we think these are the most important. Knowing the basic PM terms will be worth it as it can lead to you becoming more organised and successful.

Now that you are more prepared to start your project, with these key terms under your belt. Why not have a look at How to Start a Project, a blog which gives you the basics on where to start a successful project!

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