Crossed wires – same words, different meaning

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Crossed wires – same words, different meaning

All industries have words or phrases that are unique to them. Being ex-military and Police, I can tell you that there are a number of phrases used in these professions that are rarely used elsewhere.

For instance, the term RVP  (Rendezvous Point), is used by military and police personnel, both inside and outside of their work hours. While the majority of us would say “Where shall we meet?” my ex colleagues would ask, “Where’s the RVP?”.

When abbreviations are commonly used within the same industry then there is little room for confusion, or at least that’s what I thought. A while ago I had been working on a Project Charter and asked my colleague Mark to review it for me. He gave me some valuable feedback but rather surprisingly asked why the Project Manager was reporting to the PMO?

I explained to Mark that the ‘report’ goes from the PM (Project Manager) to the Steering Committee via the PMO (Project Management Office). Mark was confused and stated that the PM should not report to the PMO, but only to the Steering Committee.

Clearly, something wasn’t right here. I couldn’t understand why Mark was talking about hierarchy when I was referring to status.

In this program, there were a large number of projects. I wanted the PMO to compile the reports from the Project Managers on a weekly basis and then send a leaner more focussed version to the Steering Committee members.

The weekly reports also enabled the PMO to keep track of the milestones and deliverables and to bring any concerns or potential issues to the attention of the Steering Committee.

As it transpired, Mark told me that ‘Report’ generally means ‘Reporting Line’, ie who the person takes orders from, whereas what I was referring to was a ‘Status Report’.

I could see where he was coming from, but I disagreed and Mark suggested that perhaps the word Report, comes from my days in the police.

Having thought about it some more, I saw his point. In the Police, report means, to report someone for an offence. It is a document that ‘tells a story’.

However, ‘Report’ was also used on a large project by my previous client to refer to the ‘Status’.

To me a ‘report’ is a document that, in a project is used to convey the current status .i.e. a ‘Status Report’. Personally when I would talk about reporting lines, I would say ‘Reporting to.’ But never shorten ‘Reporting Line’ to ‘Report’. Now I would find that confusing.

When we get used to a word meaning something specific, it is hard to use that word in another way. I will probably spend the rest of my career using ‘Report’ in the ‘wrong’ way. Having said that, I believe that I’ve been understood will carry on until someone else points out my mistake again. Then I’ll review my terminology in-line with the organisation I am in.

What do you think, and have you any similar experiences?

Until next time.


2016-11-17T08:23:31+00:000 Comments

About the Author:

Oliver is a well-structured, pragmatic, happy and positive thinking Project Manager who integrates easily into groups and teams from all kinds of differing cultures, industries and backgrounds. He is result focused and is able to formulate effective strategies to obtain what is required. He is not afraid to take the lead when necessary and is also happy in a coaching or teaching role. Oliver is PMI certified and is fully versed in The Bayard Partnership’s ‘Applied Project’ and ‘Change Management’ methodologies. His specializations include IP security and fast track, complex project management assignments with a strong focus on people motivation and management.

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