What will future project managers look like? We review the skills and qualities that will be required of these professionals over the next few years.
Although the technical skills of project managers have long been considered essential, this will be less and less the case, Caroline Coulombe believes, a professor at the Department of Management and Technology at UQAM’s School of Management Sciences (ESG UQAM). “Today’s project managers are first and foremost good team coordinators,” she says at the outset.
This also means that they have to know how to get the best from the different personalities and varied expertise within the team. “It was traditionally a very technical position, but now project managers are playing in a much bigger playing field,” she says.
Organizations will therefore be looking more for candidates who understand the techniques of a given industry, or who have a basic understanding of it, but “especially people who can navigate organizational politics while knowing how best to communicate the relevant information.”
These communication skills will serve them not only within the team itself – the project manager is rather like an orchestra conductor – but also in the public square. “Projects are increasingly exposed and known to citizens,” Caroline Coulombe recalls. “So someone needs to be able to talk to everyone and have the skills needed to explain the project.”
In addition, a good project manager will be both curious and flexible, the professor believes, whose research focuses on the skills of these professionals.
The next step is to concentrate more on ethical issues and social acceptability. “In a world [where transparency is valued], people have to be recruited who are able to reflect on the ethical issues that these projects bring up,” the specialist says. “These qualities – critical judgement and the ability to think ethically – are not yet found in job offers, but they are coming. It is also being included in the school curriculum.”
What about training?
Continuing education seems to be an increasingly favoured route taken by project management professionals to ensure that best practices are implemented. So 90% of project managers interviewed in a survey conducted in 2017 by the Axelos firm believe that continuing education will remain essential to practising their profession.
“What’s clear,” Caroline Coulombe says, “is that contextualized project training has a greater impact.”
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