What are the Most Critical Project Management Skills?

Oct 09, 2018

What are the Most Critical Project Management Skills?

The demand for critical project management skills continues to experience remarkable growth around the world and there seems to be no slowing down. Triggered by high attrition rates, retirements, and the escalating demand for project talent, it is anticipated that a talent gap will develop in the project management field during the next decade.

In fact, the Project Management Institute’s recent Job Growth and Talent Gap report estimates that almost 88 million project management professionals will be in demand to fill project-related job openings by 2027. The report suggests the following sectors will generate the largest demand for project management professionals:

Industry Sector Project-Related Jobs
Manufacturing and Construction 9.7 million
Information Services and Publishing 5.5 million
Finance and Insurance 4.6 million
Management and Professional Services 1.7 million
Utilities 279,000
Oil and Gas 49,000


This spells great news for project managers and related professionals who possess the skills that will continue to be in demand. But just what are they? The following critical project management skills are commonly expected by employers when looking to fill this high-demand leadership role.

Strategic Thinking

Gone are the days of project managers being hired because of their ability to merely “manage” projects. Projects have become more complex, remote teams are quickly becoming commonplace, and global competition and regulations are forcing companies to innovate. In line with executive team functions, project management professionals are being challenged with becoming more strategically aligned in their thought process and actions. In this regard, project managers are expected to deliver projects that are in lockstep with the organization-wide vision and strategy, not just with departmental goals. Project managers should be able to link every activity, task, and milestone back to high-level objectives in order to produce the most value possible for the company.

Mentoring and Motivating

Successful project managers play a significant role in mentoring and motivating their teams and other stakeholders. Delivering a product or service to a customer without this skill is likely to produce dismal results, as simply demanding peak performance from team members does not build high-performance teams. Rather, high-performance teams are the result of having faith in their leadership and feeling positive about their organization. In order to develop this faith, executives and project managers must mentor and motivate. It is a project manager’s job to develop an understanding of the organization, the culture, and what motivates employees for increased success. Remember to remain reliable, accountable, and transparent.


Being agile means having the ability to learn, move, and adapt quickly and easily. Most project managers spend their days racing from one meeting to another, filling out status reports, updating schedules, continually maintaining project buy-in, and putting out fires. Because a project manager is expected to be able to think on his or her feet and rapidly adjust to potential risks, agility is a critical project management skill. Being agile as a leader also means being able to recognize when and how to leverage technology to create workflow efficiencies. It is highly unlikely a project manager will be hired or retained without this skill.

Communication and Collaboration

Project managers know all too well that a significant portion of their day is spent communicating or collaborating. This means that clear communication and collaboration is arguably the most critical skill that a project manager should possess. PMI reports that almost 30% of all projects that fail can be directly tied to poor communication. This means that project progression, the quality of deliverables, and effective resource utilization will rely heavily on the project manager’s communication and collaboration skills. The ability to use project collaboration tools to communicate with all stakeholders in a timely and routine manner makes it possible to maintain an effortless dialogue. It also requires a project manager to be trustworthy, transparent, and objective at all times.

Risk Management

The ability to anticipate, identify, and plan for potential risks is an essential skill and one that requires absolute focus and attention to detail. Project managers and their teams must be situationally aware in order to see tasks and activities from different angles. In doing so, a project manager can recognize changes before they become risk points and develop risk strategies that are proactive rather than reactive. As a result, companies can prevent financial loss and other negative effects before they even begin, rather than stemming the tide of an ongoing loss. If a project manager does not possess this skill, or the skill is not well-developed, there can be disastrous consequences for both the project and the organization as a whole.

Time Management

Time is always in short supply when managing projects, yet it is something project managers continually have on their minds. Because tasks seldom go according to schedule, with only 52% of projects completed on time, according to PMI, the ability to quickly identify the status of tasks and make fast, calculated decisions around resource allocation is an essential and desirable skill. When put to good use, effective time management can greatly improve a company’s margins over time by better utilizing resources.

Support Your Project Management Needs

As the project management field continues to see staggering growth globally, top project managers who possess these critical project management skills will be in high demand. Having the right management skills, combined with leveraging the best work management tools, can position you well as a leader.

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