Project Management

3 Skills Project Managers Will Need In The Future

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Categories: Career Help

By Dave Wakeman

As we head into the fourth quarter, our minds are likely focusing on finishing the year strong, hitting our goals and, maybe, thinking about what 2019 will bring. 

For many, that line of thinking includes how we can better develop ourselves, make ourselves more valuable to our organization and make sure that we are always on the cutting edge with our skills. 

Based on the business and project management landscape, I think the skills project managers will need are going to be different and faster changing than ever before. To me, these are the three key skills we all need to make sure we maintain our future relevance.

1. Strategy: More project managers are being asked to help set the strategic direction for their organization. This means they have to have an understanding of the organization’s big-picture goals and how the projects they are leading fit into those goals. 

Project managers must be willing to make the tough decisions to halt projects or advocate for projects that will move the organization toward their goals. 

You can develop a better strategic mindset by making certain you understand your organization’s core goals and asking yourself how the projects you are working on fit into those goals. And, when they don’t fit, you can train yourself to evaluate the action needed to rectify that. 

2. Communications: I’ve spent a lot of time writing about the need to do a better job communicating with your team. And that need is only increasing.

You need to constantly work on improving your communications skills to keep up with the continuing demand of an always-on world. 

This means you will need to understand how to communicate in-person and online, up and down the organizational chart, and inside and outside of your organization. The best communicators are always listening and processing information. The goal is that they are able to understand, translate and share that information with all their key stakeholders in a way that has the maximum impact. 

3. Sales skills: In the future, selling is going to be a key part of the project manager’s toolkit. 


Because we are going to have to get better at advocating for the resources we need, the tools we have access to and getting our ideas acted on. And that’s sales. 

Getting project managers signed up for cold calling might seem like a stretch. But when you think about selling as the art of persuasion, it’s a much easier idea to get behind.  

The days of command-and-control are over, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It just means that we have to change. 

What do you think project managers are going to need to know in the future? 


Posted by David Wakeman on: October 26, 2018 10:11 AM | Permalink

Comments (40)

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Absolutely excellent points, Dave! Thanks for sharing.

Thank you for sharing. Let me some comments. About 1, project manager must have strategical skills due to she/he is in charge to define the project strategic and tactic. Just if you are talking about organizational strategy then that belongs to business analsysis/portfolio manager field. About 2, it is a skill that must be used today. Perhaps I did not understand your point. About 3, it is a skill that must be used today. For example, when project managers perform project kick off.

Thank you for sharing. We need to broaden our skills as project management become more sophisticated.

These are areas that certainly will have more attention going forward. Additionally, I'd suggest leadership and influence.

Now, while, all are current attributes/skills, I have seen a push for an increased focus and leaning on those PM's who have continually developed and grown these qualities in their career progression.

Thank you for the concise heads up. This is indeed the future skill set of project managers.

Thanks for interesting article.

Very interesting, thanks for sharing

I would say they are needed in the past, present and future.

Nice article, Dave. I appreciate your exemplars. In reading your last prediction, I would propose this modification: "In the future, telling is going to be a key part of the project manager’s toolkit."

I would replace "selling" with "telling" as in storytelling. I believe storytelling can get the PM to the same goal -- resources, access, action. An advantage is it can be done without the feeling of "cold calling", a barrier you outlined and a point I agree with you about. Storytelling may also help the PM feel like the situation is less transactional (i.e., I tell you my bullet points, you grant me 'yes' or 'no'). Instead, it's persuasion where the sponsor is part of the story, and hopefully storytelling gives a feeling that "we are all in this together ".

Maybe at the surface, selling and telling are the same skill, but the difference is how the PM utilizes it.

The future will tell!

They are key skills to deliver projects successfully. Work on them constantly, they will set you on the path to success.

Very good points, thank you for sharing.

Thanks Dave for the relevance of these three skills. The challenge is putting them to use when we're caught up in our "whirlwind" of the project activities, urgency of each activity that consume our time and energy. Having said that they should be part and parcel of our tool kit as PM.

These key leadership skills has been relevant since beginning and will continue to be part of necessary skill-set in foreseeable future.

However, I believe 'Cloud Technologies Awareness' is something new, which will be needed for all leaders (including Project Managers) as 'cloud based resources' become integral part of the infrastructure.

I second you....

Thanks for sharing. In response to your question, about what else - with the way things are going, I think that there will be a greater emphasis on PM's delivering value, and PM's will be required to actively articulate this over the course or at the conclusion of their project.

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