Reading Time: 3 minutes
I was reviewing the latest version of the PMBOK guide, and it is up to about 975 pages. Studying this new guide is time consuming and daunting, even for me.

Then, I was reading some articles on a PM website that I frequent, and I began getting a headache. I’m pretty much a PM geek. And if I’m getting a headache from reading blogs, how are those posts going over with non-PMs? We need to find a simpler project language.

Recently, I was talking to a project manager about a non-profit project that she was involved in as a side venture. She was a little frustrated. The project manager for the non-profit had never heard of a Gantt chart, earned value, Scrum, Agile, or even scope. How the heck did she ever get hired? It turns out that she is a great PM. She just knocks her projects out of the ball park, over and over.

Maybe she knows something that trained project managers forget. It’s not about the reports. It’s about the four C’s of project management: culture, communication, commitment, and care. If we could find a simpler project language, the four C’s would be so much easier.


We don’t improve culture by dividing our organization into Agile and Waterfall camps who barely speak.

We read more and more about hybrid project management approaches. All too often, they still contain sophisticated project management terms. Frequently, I read articles that talk about project management in us versus them terms – depending on the stance of the writer.

It might be Agile versus Waterfall, Scrum versus Kanban, Service Design versus Design Thinking, or Microsoft Project versus Excel. It could be those who advocate for hybrid approaches that unite the workforce. Or, those who allege that hybrid approaches, over the longer-term, just represent the worst of both sides.

I argue that we need to unite around the challenges of executing a project from start to finish as effectively as possible. Put aside the need to be right about which methodology is being used. Instead, focus on getting the project done well.


We can’t improve communications with a bunch of acronyms or phrases that some don’t understand.

Whether we are talking about emails, project updates, or dashboard reports, the goal is that the reader (or listener) gets it – with very little work. So, use the KISS method – Keep it simple, stupid.

I know, it doesn’t help when the dashboard reports aren’t comparable because your teams are using five different methodologies in one organization. As helpful as green, yellow, and red indicators might seem on the surface, has anyone ever done a scientific study on the reliability of those little colored circles? My fear is that they are almost worthless when they are simply an unsupported opinion of the project manager.

If you want some more ideas to improve your written communications, take a look at this blog.


Building a team’s commitment to a project is more easily done with simple language.

Think about the situations that you have been in where someone was building energy and enthusiasm for something. Was it the cheerleaders for a big football game? Or, was it the director of a big fundraising project? Maybe it was the president of your University, speaking at a commencement or homecoming event? Or, maybe you’ve actually been to one of those legendary Apple announcement events? I’ll stay away from politics, but the bottom line is the same.

Energy and enthusiasm are built with very simple language. It’s not the beautiful charts, meaningful metrics, or sophisticated data. It’s big, meaningful ideas expressed with short, catchy phrases that build energy and enthusiasm.

Energy and enthusiasm are built with very simple language. Click To Tweet


A team’s ability to sustain projects over the long-term requires that people on the team believe others care. It doesn’t require fancy language.

Care might seem like a funny word to you. I use it to include all of the conversations and actions taken that are designed to pump people up or make them feel better. In this case, I’m not talking about the need to build energy and enthusiasm on the team as much as I am personal influences to keep individuals on board, particularly during tough times.

Let’s take, as an example – the person on the team who has just gotten pregnant and is dealing with morning sickness. How effective are you going to be if you walk into her office and start discussing an earned value report that she just submitted, while she is simply trying to keep from barfing in your face?

Does that mean that you don’t mention the earned value report? No. It just means that you don’t lead with it. And it means that you don’t lead with something else that is equally complicated. Start with the simple. Start with caring.

These four C’s of project management – culture, communication, commitment, and care – are far more important than fancy reports. Yet sometimes it feels like we don’t spend nearly enough time on them. It would be so much easier if we used a simpler project language.

If this was helpful, sign up for my newsletter for more project management guidance.