Project management skills for managing large-scale projects

An illustration of a project manager juggling several different tasks, including budgeting, scheduling and resource management.

Managing projects has never been as complex as it is today.

Increasingly, companies are required to manage a vast number of resources, as well as people onshore and offshore. Supply chains are expanding, and they have many interdependencies. Because projects are getting more complicated, the skills required to manage them are changing fast. In the past, technical skills were more important, but now soft skills are equally important.

Due to the changing skills landscape, understanding what skills are required to manage projects, particularly large-scale projects, is crucial. This article will detail the 10 most important large-scale project skills, as well as general project management skills and all-important project management soft skills. Lastly, it will explain how to develop project management skills and, critically, how to present them on a project management skills resume.

Project management skills for large-scale projects

Project management is a popular profession for many reasons: It’s interesting, it’s varied and it offers great career opportunities. It can certainly be challenging, however, and multiple key project management skills are required to succeed when managing large-scale projects.

Here are 10 examples of project management skills, generally more technical, required to succeed when managing large-scale projects: 

1. Project planning 

One of the keys to success when managing large-scale projects is planning, which is the ability to design a course of action that meets objectives. Project managers must have the ability to do everything from crafting small-scale, day-to-day plans to creating large statements of work, resource plans, timelines and briefs.

2. Scheduling   

An essential element of project planning is scheduling, the plotting of tasks, people and resources over the duration of the project. Scheduling for large-scale projects requires the ability to create a calendar that depicts who does what and when. Project managers will often use a scheduling tool and may need to create schedules using various types of charts, including Gantt charts.

3. Developing documentation

With large-scale projects, project managers will inevitably need to create a significant number of documents, such as a business case, project charter and error log. When developing documentation, project managers must understand when it is needed as well as what type of documentation and how much is required.

4. Task management

Another critical job of project managers is breaking down large tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks, and ensuring they are executed. The ability to schedule, monitor and assess progress on tasks is the essence of task management. To best manage tasks, project managers require both simple skills, such as the ability to create lists, and higher-level skills, such as knowing how to use advanced spreadsheets and the kanban methodology.

5. Project control

Despite best-laid plans, things often go awry in projects. Projects may experience scope creep, missed deadlines or human resource issues, such as stakeholder conflict and lack of resources. To rein in these issues and ensure projects get delivered, project managers must be skilled at project control, which is the ability to monitor and manage project costs, timelines and scopes.

6. Risk management

Large-scale projects contain myriad risks. Risk management is the ability to identify, measure and mitigate these risks.

A number of skills are required to manage risks on projects, although a lot of risk management comes down to experience. To best manage risk, project managers need to first identify potential issues, then assess probabilities and costs and assign an owner to each risk category.

7. Using project management software

For large-scale projects, project management software is essential. Managing large projects without it can be difficult. Project managers must have the skills required to use a number of different types of software, including project planning, financial and risk management software.

8. Reading, writing and arithmetic

It may sound basic, but all project managers need to excel at the three Rs, otherwise known as reading, writing and arithmetic.

Project managers need to quickly and easily comprehend the vast amount of information they come across as they do their jobs every single day. They may need to read and quickly understand technical proposals, write their own proposals and project documents and identify budgeting errors before they lead to bigger issues.

9. Budgeting

According to the Houston Chronicle, some 85% of projects go over budget in some way, shape or form. The ability to create and effectively manage a viable budget is important for project managers on large-scale projects. This requires skills such as liaising with stakeholders and working with financial experts to create meaningful reports and estimates.

10. Problem-solving

Budget overrun is just one of the many issues that projects commonly experience. For this reason, solving problems is another skill needed for project management. To be able to successfully problem solve on large-scale projects, project managers must understand the root causes of an issue, work through the issues with stakeholders and find and implement successful solutions.

A list of five project management skills needed in large-scale projects.

General project management skills

Due to the complexity of large-scale projects, project managers need a number of general project management skills, focused more on traits and behaviors, to be successful. These include the following:

1. Organisation

Managing resources and people can be a challenge, and project managers are often required to coordinate this. Organisation, defined as the ability to bring order to what otherwise would be chaos, requires project managers to understand the objectives of a project and how to break them down into specific tasks. They must prioritize, compartmentalize and thoroughly track and document each task.

2. Detail orientation

Sometimes hundreds of factors must be considered in large-scale projects. The role of the project manager is to understand all of these factors and how they interact and overlap. The smallest details can sometimes lead to a roadblock or a breakthrough in the course of a project. Project managers must be hyperaware of all the moving pieces.

3. Being a team player

In projects, project managers often play the role of keeping everyone (and everything) together. To do so, they need to understand team members’ perspectives and ensure the team works collaboratively towards the successful completion of the project.

Project managers should proactively solicit feedback as well as provide it. They must be comfortable working with others, delegating tasks and trusting the quality of others’ work. Large-scale projects cannot be completed without the team working together as one.

4. Adaptability

Regardless of how well planned a project is, things will naturally go wrong or circumstances will change. When they do, the project manager must adapt to the new reality as opposed to stubbornly sticking to the original plan. The ability to quickly survey an environment, understand what might be going wrong and adapt accordingly is a key project management skill.

5. Flexibility 

Related to adaptability, project managers must be flexible enough to pivot or change direction when needed and respond to new requirements or changes in resourcing. A project manager’s flexibility must also extend to the ability to work with team members and stakeholders from different areas of an organization and with different skill sets and levels of responsibility.

6. Decisiveness 

Many, if not all, projects are run on tight schedules, with tight budgets and little room for error. Yet often things go awry, and when they do, time is not available for lengthy debate or uncertainty on how to correct the course of action. Project managers must be able to think on their feet, have information at the ready and have the confidence and experience to make quick decisions.

7. Dependability

Dependencies are a key component of any large-scale project. One task often depends on another just as team members must depend on each other to see a project through to completion. Stakeholders and team members must be able to depend on project managers to take ultimate responsibility for the project they are overseeing. Project managers must be comfortable with accountability and willing to step up when needed to make crucial decisions. When it comes to projects, the buck stops with project managers.

8. Dedication

Large-scale projects can be time consuming and long term, often with periods of pressure and stress. Project managers must be committed to the project and its outcomes. They must be able to dedicate the necessary time and energy to a project and be willing to do what is required to make it succeed.

9. Commitment

Along with dedication comes commitment. Project managers should be committed to the success of a project, which means being engaged and involved and inspiring others to do the same. With only project success in mind, project managers must be committed to following the best course of action and taking the best ideas the project team has to offer.

10. Optimism

Project managers are the glue that holds projects together, and not just from an organisational and planning perspective. As mentioned earlier, large-scale projects can be stressful and put pressure and strain on project team members. Projects like these are also not typically success-only journeys. Project managers should keep the team focused on the ultimate goals, providing hope and encouragement along the way.

Project management soft skills

Project management is a truly multifaceted role, and much of it involves dealing with people. For that reason, project managers must also have project management soft skills.

The following project management soft skills are key for all project managers:

1. Leadership

One of the soft skills needed for project management is leadership. Project managers are the ones who need to see the big picture, and leadership is the skill that enables them to do this. Leadership encompasses motivating and inspiring others, setting a vision and helping others execute it.

2. Conflict management

Project work can often inspire passion and induce stress. Conflict inevitably will arise among stakeholders or team members. A project manager must be able to effectively handle conflict by understanding different people’s perspectives, influencing and persuading others and compromising to find the best solutions for the ultimate goals of the project.

3. Trustworthiness

The project manager has oversight (and considerable accountability) for an entire project and therefore must be able to be trusted to make the best decisions for a project’s success, which means delivering on what has been promised. Project managers can establish trust by hitting deadlines, communicating openly and doing what they say they will do.

4. Motivation

Project managers provide far more than a plan for a project. They also need to be able to motivate others, often by demonstrating their own motivation through a high level of engagement and effective communication. A motivated team deals with stress and adversity better and works more efficiently than less engaged teams.

5. Communication

Communication is essential to great project management. A project is much more likely to be delivered successfully when the vision, goals, plan and other elements are effectively communicated to stakeholders and team members. Project managers must be confident, articulate and intelligent communicators, in both oral and written forms.

6. Critical thinking

Complex projects tend to have complex problems. As such, critical thinking is an essential soft skill for project managers. Project managers must be able to rationally analyze the facts and form a judgement, without bias.

7. Prioritisation

One of the realities of project management is that projects always have more tasks to complete than time available. Project managers must be skilled at analysing competing tasks and deciding which is more urgent and why. They should also be able to communicate priorities and ensure that stakeholders understand the reasons behind prioritising and deprioritizing certain tasks.

8. Creativity

As challenges arise during a large-scale project, project managers can often use creativity and innovation to overcome them. Project managers need to be able to look at situations from different perspectives and consider new approaches to success. They also need to encourage creativity from their team members through brainstorming and other idea-generating methods.

A list of five soft skills critical for project managers.

Highlighting project management skills on a resume

Project managers need numerous skills to succeed. To be able to use these skills, however, they first need to successfully highlight them on their resumes.

Here are six examples of project management skills and how project managers can best highlight them on their resumes. In the list, two technical skills, two general skills and two soft skills will be detailed.

1. Project planning (technical skill)

Project planning is one of the most critical skills required in project management, so project managers should describe this skill in detail on their resumes by doing the following:

  • Detail the scope, budget and timeline of the project they delivered
  • Describe the outcome of the project
  • Explain how they drove success
  • Show how they overcame obstacles
  • List the software they used

2. Risk management (technical skill)

Large-scale projects involve a lot of risk, so project managers must demonstrate their effectiveness in managing it. On a resume, project managers should do the following:

  • Describe how they created a risk management plan
  • Explain what risks eventuated
  • Detail how they managed risks
  • List the software they used

3. Dedication (general skill)

General skills are often more difficult to quantify on a resume, but project managers can show dedication on their resume by doing the following:

  • Detail how they effectively managed all elements of the project
  • Describe how they support all stakeholders
  • Discuss how they drove exceptional outcomes

4. Decisiveness (general skill)

A general skill like decisiveness is often best demonstrated in an interview. However, if project managers do want to show this in their resume, they should do the following:

  • Provide examples of important decisions they have made
  • Show the impact and outcome of those decisions

5. Leadership (soft skill)

Leadership is all-encompassing, so it can also be challenging to highlight on a resume. However, here are a few tips for how project managers can demonstrate leadership skills on a resume:

  • Detail how many staff they have managed
  • Discuss successful outcomes and how they have helped achieve them
  • Talk about how they have developed talent in the team
  • Detail any promotions they’ve been given

6. Communication (soft skill)

The very act of writing a good resume can demonstrate excellent communication for project managers. To further show this skill on their resume, they should:

  • Quantify all of their achievements
  • Avoid spelling and grammar errors

Further resources

For more information on how project managers can demonstrate their skills on their resume, please visit:

How to develop project management skills

Project managers must develop key skills before they can promote or use them. The best way to develop these skills is to spend time learning them in a formal environment, such as via the Graduate Diploma of Project Management from RMIT Online.

But there are some informal ways project managers can begin building these skills before they study.

Here are six examples of project management skills from different categories (two technical, two general and two soft skills), and how project managers can develop them.

1. Scheduling (technical skill)

Every single project will require scheduling of some variety, and large-scale projects will likely require scheduling according to a well-known project management methodology. The best way for project managers to acquire scheduling skills is to:

  • Familiarise themselves with the top project management methodologies
  • Invest in learning different software programs that assist in creating schedules

2. Developing documentation (technical skill)

All projects will require at least a few documents, including the project plan, budget and timeline. For this reason, project managers need to understand how to develop documentation. To develop this skill, project managers should:

  • Learn about the different types of documentation required for projects
  • Begin by using templates to ensure project documents are filled out correctly

3. Organisation (general skill)

Organisation is key to ensuring projects get delivered. This is a difficult skill to acquire, but project managers who need to practice should do the following:

  • Use organisation tools such as lists and reminders
  • Always plan
  • Always make time to double-check plans and other documents

4. Detail orientation (general skill)

Detail orientation is all about learning to see things that perhaps others don’t. Like other general skills, it can take practice to acquire, but project managers should:

  • Double-check to ensure instructions are understood
  • Use a task management system
  • Take a break and then proofread before they submit their work

5. Conflict management (soft skill)

As project managers will inevitably be charged with diffusing tension, they need to be able to stay calm while others are frustrated. To acquire this skill, they should:

  • Familiarise themselves with academic theories for resolving conflict
  • Endeavour to stay calm and act rationally at all times

6. Creativity (soft skill)

For large projects, project managers will require creativity often to solve problems. This can be a difficult skill to nurture, but project managers should:

  • Recharge and rejuvenate by doing a variety of things, for example, learning a new hobby, spending time in nature or changing their habits
  • Try to be resourceful and think outside the box

Further resources

For more information on project management skills and how to develop them, please visit:

Project management skills: A lifelong work in progress

Over their careers, project managers will constantly be acquiring and refining their skill sets. This is a big part of what makes project management such a fulfilling career. Just as no two days are ever the same, neither are any two projects. This means that project managers are constantly evolving and learning, likely to become highly sought-after professionals whose skills extend far beyond the workplace.

You can gain the skills and confidence to manage bigger projects and learn from top industry experts with RMIT Online's Graduate Diploma in Project Management. Learn more today.