Essential Project Management Skills

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Essential Project Management Skills

Good project management is a blend of skills.  No one has the perfect blend.  The ideal combination will vary between projects and organisations.  But all project managers should have a key set of core skill areas.  Here we attempt to suggest the essential elements that will provide the best benefit.


Core to getting the project done has to be leadership. Leadership overlaps many other areas of project management. If you enjoy being in control, then you have a head start in leadership. But to lead successfully you will need to allow your team space to make their own contribution.

Clear definition of what you require from the team and stakeholders will provide a solid foundation for project success. This can range from outlining the schedule. Selling the project vision and motivating the team.  As well as motivating all involved and driving the project forward.

As project managers you need to lead from a tactical point of view daily. But project managers also bridge the gap between tactical and strategy planning

More on project leadership skills

Problem solving

Solving problems and removing blockages is something that all project managers will face. Problem solving in its wider sense is at the heart of scheduling. Risk and issue management cannot be tackled without an element of problem solving.

A project manager will need to get to the core of a problem quickly and identify a solution. Those that can involve the skills of others to address problems are most likely to position their project for success.


Clearly keeping the team and stakeholders informed is essential to project success. Communication skills are also about constructive listening. The range of communication methods and approach increases every day. Finding a way to make communication useful and timely to everyone is central to supporting the project.

So, establish a pattern that works for your project. Use the channels and methods that are most comfortable for your audience.

Consistent communication works best. Once you have established a pattern, stakeholders begin to expect regular reports and updates

Emotional intelligence

Clear understanding of how you will feel about situations is important in managing a project well. Understand how your mood will affect your thought process and the way you interact with others.

But knowing and controlling your own reaction is only part of the story. Empathising with others will underpin many of the other skills.

Solid emotional intelligence allows you to build effective relationships. This in turn will help to get the team behind you, increasing the chance of successful delivery.


Negotiating is a specialist form of problem solving. This element overlaps with communication, emotional intelligence and organisation. It will involve setting prices with suppliers in its basic form. But its more involved with the project on a daily basis than project managers realise.

Negotiating is core to removing obstacles from the project. It is also central to getting people to agree to objectives and schedules.


Organisation is included as a separate skill even though it has much in common with leadership. But organisation is about defining and controlling the right things.

  • Building and tracking a project plan.
  • Recording costs and progress.
  • Assigning the appropriate tasks.
  • Setting up the work environment
  • Storing and updating the business case and other core project definitions

Good organisation establishes the control that allows good leadership to take place.

Subject Matter Expertise

Does the project manager have to be a subject matter expert? It can benefit the project to have that skill combined in the project manager, depending on the nature of the project. But an experienced project manager can successfully manage project without being an SME. If the Project Manager is supported by a team with expertise in the field, then it reduces the necessity for them to be closely involved in design and delivery of the solution.

In some fields it can be of benefit to keep a separation between technical expertise and project management.


This article touches on all the basic skills that project managers need. But many of the skills discussed here will break down into more specialist areas. It is valid to say that project managers do need a wide range of skills and be able to adapt quickly to changing circumstance. The project manager role its elf is changing over time. The blend of skills required will almost certainly change too.

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