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 (39)

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It is absolutely in line with futuristic skill set PM's will need to be relevant enough for this industry.

Great article Dave, I fully agree with you.
Maybe I would include AI technology awareness.

Another skill that comes to mind is the ability to effectively promote oneself and the value of project management.

An example of this is the Internet's impact on the medical profession, where local GP's (doctors) are now facing patients that have researched the internet before consultation (web doctors etc.). Patients may predetermine their own treatment and not see a doctor or challenge the doctor's diagnosis when they do go. Some of those treatments may be well marketed, but are not recognised by the medical profession due to a lack of empirical evidence, so therefore the doctor may have little to knowledge of them. This dilutes the value of the Doctor and their profession.

The same might apply to PM's in the future, as more PM type tools are embedded into mainstream applications and AI helps with learning, thus effectively making everyone (think they are) a project management specialist.

Thanks for posting. Very informative article 👌👍

Interesting ...

Great article. I definitely agree with the business strategy ability. I have been involved in, and have lead (unfortunately), many projects that are not in line with the department or organization's business strategy. They may have been at one point, or it's just a project that everyone else in the industry is doing, or it may even just be a 'nice to have' feature. Making sure you are aware of the business goals, know the details of the business projects, and are able to identify how each project will help achieve that goal shows that you value the company and are invested in its vision and greatly improves your image as a PM professional.

I agree - Sales Skills is far higher up the requirements/skill set. One has to be able to sell/influence the vision/idea/product (basically insert here) to effectively lead and manage now more than ever.

I totally agree with you especially on setting the strategic direction as i am constantly now being asked to contribute in that regard within my own organization.

Project Managers in the future will need a higher tolerance to uncertainty. The core skills are still required, strategic mind, cost consciousness and leadership. I agree communication is the name of the game these days and as PM´s we must be at the top of the game.

Yes Communion plays a vital role in project management.

Yes Communion plays a vital role in project management.

Yes Communication plays a vital role in project management.

Nice article and thanks for sharing. I agree with you on all points. Besides resources issue, PMs also need to continously sale projects to key stakeholders especially top management. This includes new developments in project management around organizations readiness to agility. Also proactively managing project politics and building resilience in managing complex situations will continue to be key to project success. Finally l also think acquiring new technological skills in managing virtual projects will be key in future.

Thanks for sharing . I agree 100% .

Good points. Thnx for Sharing.

Good points, can add Networking also to the list

Great insight Dave.....These are things I see in my own organization.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts Dave.
While you presented them for PMs Future Relevance, to me they seemed quite relevant for Yesterday as well as now.
Some piggyback ideas to yours follow.
1. Strategy:�More project managers are being asked to help set the strategic direction for their organization.
The organizational constraint to this is that we learn Structure Follows Strategy. Which is to say that unless and until an enlightened executive level accepts that for strategies to work, potentially major changes may be needed to the structure of the organizations management/operations Tree.
This point is usually not well received.
2. Communications:�Ive spent a lot of time writing about the need to do a better job communicating with your team. And that need is only increasing.
The challenge here seems to be for managers to do less talking and more proactive/interactive listening. A major leap-frog improvement in this is possible once more women are recognized for their contributions and elevated into senior and executive ranks. Women, for the most part, have excelled with their listening-first before acting skills. Listen with your eyes, see with your ears.
3. Sales skills:�In the future, selling is going to be a key part of the project managers toolkit.
There is absolutely, positively no better sales representative for your firm than a delighted client/customer! I did NOT say a satisfied one. A delighted client! This end result happens once the executives in your firm stop doing end-runs around the PM to the client, and the PM develops a relationship with the client BEFORE issues arise.
It starts best when the PM effectively and efficiently manages the client by having a sit-down, face-2-face at the 0.10% project timeline, and reviews how the contract terms and conditions will be administrated to assure a smooth and orderly life for the project and its stakeholders. �

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